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SCIENCE REPORT - February 28, 2002: Blood Test For Ovarian Cancer - 2002-02-27

This is the VOA Special English Science Report.

American medical researchers say they have developed a simple blood test that can tell if a woman has ovarian cancer. Cancer of the ovaries is one of the most difficult cancers to find and cure. That is because there has been no effective way to tell if a woman has the disease until it has spread throughout the body.

Researchers say about twenty-four-thousand American women are found to have ovarian cancer every year. About fourteen-thousand of them die each year. Cancer experts say that ninety percent of women with ovarian cancer could be cured if the cancer was found early.

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute and the Food and Drug Administration developed the new test. It requires a very small amount of blood and gives results in thirty minutes. The test looks for a group of proteins that is present in the blood of women with ovarian cancer. The researchers reported their work in the British publication The Lancet.

In the study, the researchers took blood from fifty women known to have ovarian cancer and fifty women without the disease. They examined the blood samples using a computer program developed by the Correlogic Systems Company of Bethesda, Maryland. The computer program found a group of five proteins in the blood samples of all the cancer victims.

The researchers then looked for that protein group in one-hundred-sixteen other blood samples. Fifty of the blood samples were from women with ovarian cancer. Sixty-six were from women without the disease. The researchers did not know which samples came from which women. The test correctly identified all fifty cases of ovarian cancer, including eighteen that were in the earliest forms of the disease. However, the test falsely identified three healthy women as having ovarian cancer.

The researchers now plan to do more tests involving larger numbers of women. They say it will be several years before the test could be used for all women. They say it will most likely be used first for women who have a greater than normal chance of developing ovarian cancer.

The researchers say their testing method could be used to find other cancers, too. They are working to develop similar tests to find cancers of the pancreas, breast and prostate.

This VOA Special English Science Report was written by Nancy Steinbach.