The Journal of Clinical Oncology recently reported the results of a study which found that combining the results of several different types of tumor markers in ovarian cancer increases the sensitivity of detecting early stage ovarian cancer.
Ovarian cancer is a malignancy that arises from various different cells within the ovaries. Approximately 25,000 new cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year. Unfortunately, ovarian cancer often goes undetected until the disease has progressed into the abdomen or spread to other organs. The best “treatment” strategy for cancer is to prevent its occurrence or to detect it early when it is most treatable. Treating advanced ovarian cancer is often difficult and produces poor outcomes, which has prompted a great deal of research to identify ways of screening for ovarian cancer so that it may be detected earlier.
CA 125 and other tests such as CA-125II, CA 15-3, CA 72-4, and macrophage colony stimulating factor (M-CSF) all measure proteins found in the blood that are produced by cancer cells. Often these levels are used to determine the activity of cancer in the body. Although individually these tests are often highly accurate in detecting advanced disease, their sensitivity in determining early stage disease is only about 40%.
In this study, 63 patients and 126 controls underwent these blood tests prior to surgery in order to detect the presence of ovarian cancer. Individually, each test ranged in sensitivity between 45% and 70%. When the information from all four markers was combined, the sensitivity was found to be 70%, as well as being 98% specific for ovarian cancer.
Researchers concluded that combining these laboratory exams, as well as evaluating the patient with an ultrasound, may significantly increase the sensitivity when screening for early stage ovarian cancer. Patients may wish to speak to their physician regarding their risk for ovarian cancer and screening options.
Reference: Skates S, Horick N, Yu Y, et al. Preoperative sensitivity and specificity for early stage ovarian cancer when combining cancer antigen CA-125II, CA 15-3, CA 72-4, and macrophage colony-stimulating factor using mixtures of multivariate normal distributions. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2004; 22: 1-8.