New study discovers possible early detection method for elusive ovarian cancer

February 09, 2021

A study led by researchers at the University of Minnesota Medical School found a way to detect the presence of ovarian cancer in patients using Pap test samples, normally used to detect cervical cancer. Currently, no early warning system exists for ovarian cancer, which in 2021, is estimated to kill more than 13,700 women, according to the American Cancer Society.

"It is known as a 'silent killer' since women with early stages of ovarian cancer have symptoms that can often be confused with other ailments. Women are typically diagnosed when the cancer has progressed so far that other organs are involved, requiring major surgery and chemotherapy," said Amy Skubitz, PhD, senior author of the study and professor in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology. She is also the director of the Ovarian Cancer Early Detection Program at the U of M Medical School. "We set out to identify the proteins present in Pap test samples and cervical swabs to determine whether or not the same proteins are present in ovarian cancer tumor tissues."

This study, published in the journal Clinical Proteomics, found that:

The Pap test and swab samples contained proteins that were also found in the primary tumor of a woman with high-grade serous ovarian cancer;

More than 2,000 proteins were detected in all three sample types collected, suggesting potential biomarker candidates;

Pap test samples, which are already used to detect cervical cancer, may eventually be used to detect ovarian cancer.

"This study is proof of concept that these biospecimens, the Pap test and a swab of the cervix, could be developed for use in the detection of ovarian cancer biomarkers prior to surgery, but it does warrant further investigation," said Skubitz, who is also a member of the Masonic Cancer Center. "Our next step will be to use quantitative mass spectrometry to determine if these proteins or peptides are detected at higher levels in ovarian cancer Pap tests or swabs compared to controls. Their presence alone is not sufficient for diagnosis."

Skubitz also sees an opportunity for this method to be translated into a self-administered, at-home test, where swabs could be collected by women at home and sent to a central laboratory for analysis of proteins that would diagnose ovarian cancer.
This project was supported by funding from the Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance, the Cancurables Foundation, Charlene's Light: A Foundation for Ovarian Cancer and the Department of Defense Ovarian Cancer Research Program Pilot Award #W81XWH-16-1-0070.

About the University of Minnesota Medical School

The University of Minnesota Medical School is at the forefront of learning and discovery, transforming medical care and educating the next generation of physicians. Our graduates and faculty produce high-impact biomedical research and advance the practice of medicine. Visit to learn how the University of Minnesota is innovating all aspects of medicine.

University of Minnesota Medical School

Related Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

New blood cancer treatment works by selectively interfering with cancer cell signalling
University of Alberta scientists have identified the mechanism of action behind a new type of precision cancer drug for blood cancers that is set for human trials, according to research published in Nature Communications.

UCI researchers uncover cancer cell vulnerabilities; may lead to better cancer therapies
A new University of California, Irvine-led study reveals a protein responsible for genetic changes resulting in a variety of cancers, may also be the key to more effective, targeted cancer therapy.

Breast cancer treatment costs highest among young women with metastic cancer
In a fight for their lives, young women, age 18-44, spend double the amount of older women to survive metastatic breast cancer, according to a large statewide study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.

More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.

New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.

American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.

Read More: Cancer News and Cancer Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to