Serum protein profiling may allow early detection of ovarian cancer

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Analysis of serum proteomic patterns can accurately identify women with ovarian cancer, regardless of the disease stage, according to a report published in the February 16th issue of The Lancet.

Dr. Emanuel F. Petricoin III, from the US Food and Drug Administration in Bethesda, Maryland, and colleagues used mass spectroscopy to generate proteomic spectra for 50 women with ovarian cancer and for 50 unaffected women. These spectra were then analyzed by an iterative searching algorithm, which identified a proteomic pattern that completely differentiated cancer from non-cancer.

The researchers validated the diagnostic utility of the pattern by using it to screen 116 masked serum samples. Fifty of the samples had come from women with ovarian cancer, while the remainder came from women without cancer.

The pattern accurately identified all of the samples from women with cancer, including 18 from women with stage I disease. Of the 66 samples from women without cancer, the pattern identified 63 as being non-cancer. Therefore, the sensitivity, specificity, and positive predictive value of the pattern were 100%, 95%, and 94%, respectively.

Proteomic pattern analysis only requires a small serum sample, which can be obtained by fingerprick, and results can be generated in less than 30 minutes, the investigators note. Furthermore, it could represent a cost-effective method of mass screening.

The current findings "justify a prospective population-based assessment of proteomic pattern technology as a screening tool for all stages of ovarian cancer in high-risk and general populations," Dr. Petricoin and colleagues conclude.

Lancet 2002;359:572-577.

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