'Wee-stick' could prevent ovarian cancer deaths

13 September 2018 08:05

Ovarian cancer deaths could plummet with the new test

Ovarian cancer deaths could plummet with the new test

A "wee-stick" like those used in pregnancy testing could be employed to prevent thousands of deaths from ovarian cancer.

Researchers have identified a small protein produced by ovarian cancer tumours that could open up a new way to identify the disease at an early stage.

Scientists are now working to find out if the biomarker, currently known only as OCP (ovarian cancer protein), is detectable in urine.

So far, research indicates that the so-called wee test could lead to huge improvements in survival rates, possibly by as much as 70%.

'Silent killer'

Each year more than 7,000 women in the UK are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and 4,227 die from the disease.

Ovarian cancer is nicknamed the "silent killer" because it so often goes unnoticed until it has progressed to a deadly advanced stage.

Lead researcher Dr Barbara Guinn, from the University of Hull, said: "The majority of diagnoses for ovarian cancer come during stage three, when the cancer has spread to other areas of the body, which has a direct impact on the chances of patients surviving.

"A stage three diagnosis can mean survival rates as low as 20%, but with early detection, that can be increased dramatically to around 90%."

Screening

Although the research is still at an early stage, the hope is that it will lead to screening for early stage ovarian cancer within two or three years.

Speaking at the British Science Festival at the University of Hull, Dr Guinn said: "Our biggest hope is that we find this protein in urine and it will provide a screening method for patients who go into a well-woman clinic, probably to have their breasts checked and do a urine test, usually for glucose."

Dr Guinn said the work done so far had indicated that it was "reasonably likely" that OCP would be detected in urine.

Dr Guinn envisaged a test similar to the familiar one used to show if a woman is pregnant, that would have a line indicating a negative result and another line showing the possible presence of ovarian cancer.

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