Currently, no accurate test for the early detection of ovarian cancer exists. Instead, ovarian cancer usually strikes quietly, becoming known to doctor and patient only after the disease has reached an advanced stage. But a new study in the April issue of Gynecologic Oncology suggests that certain cellular and molecular changes in the ovary could provide the warning signs needed for early detection.
The study, "Premalignant lesions in the contralateral ovary of women with unilateral ovarian carcinoma," conducted by physicians at Temple University's School of Medicine and Temple University Hospital, compared the healthy ovaries of women with ovarian cancer to ovaries in women without cancer.
According to senior author Enrique Hernandez, M.D., professor and chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Temple, "Our study suggests that the 'normal' ovaries of women with ovarian cancer have not only structural changes, but also molecular changes that are less frequently found in the ovaries of healthy women," said Hernandez. The structural changes occurred in the cells of the ovary lining and the molecular changes involved higher levels of Bcl-2, a protein that prevents cell death.
Similar previous studies have been limited to women genetically predisposed to ovarian cancer.
"This study and others like it are building the foundation for better methods of early detection of ovarian cancer. If we are able to identify early changes along the path by which a normal ovarian cell turns into a cancerous ovarian cell, we might be able to develop a test to detect the disease earlier, even before it becomes cancerous," said Hernandez.
The researchers plan to conduct further testing to make sure the changes observed in this study are not the result of inflammation or injury to the ovary. They'd also like to test for other molecular markers, like Bcl-2, which could also indicate an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
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Contact: Eryn Jelesiewicz
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