Diagnosing ovarian cancer early is possibly one of the emergencies in oncology. Now, a study published in “Nature Communications” shows that cells collected during screening tests for another tumor, cervical or cervical cancer, could be used to identify ovarian cancers
The problem with ovarian cancer is that patients often have symptoms nonspecific, among them, abdominal pain, which can be confused with other pathologies and this generates a delay in diagnosis.
In addition, a study recently published in “The Lancet” concluded that the screening in the general population for ovarian cancer because it does not save lives.
Ovarian cancer is a very serious illness. It is the leading cause of death from gynecological malignancies in the Western world, since most patients (70-80%) are diagnosed in advanced stages of the disease due to the difficulty in early diagnostic.
In Spain, some 3,300 annual cases of ovarian cancer, which represents andl 5.1 percent of cancers among women, behind those of the breast, colorectal and uterus. This type of cancer is more common in postmenopausal women, with the highest incidence between 50 to 75.
One second article reports on the development of a test that uses cervical cells collected from routine exams, which can determine the presence of breast cancer. The findings, in small cohorts of women, may allow earlier detection of both types of cancer.
The ovarian cancer responsible for the largest proportion of deaths associated with gynecological cancers. Currently, 75% of ovarian cancers are diagnosed at a late stage, when tumors have spread, and being able to detect the disease earlier can improve treatment outcomes.
Researchers from Martin Widschwendter’s team at the Leopold-Franzens Institute at the University of Innsbruck in Austria used cervical cell samples collected from a group of 242 women with ovarian cancer and 869 without.
In the study, they evaluated 14,000 epigenetic changes (molecular modifications that alter gene expression patterns without altering the DNA itself) in the samples obtained in the screening.
In this way they identified a DNA methylation signature (DNA methylation is a process by which methyl groups are added to DNA) that could be used to identify or predict the presence of ovarian cancer.
The results showed that, in the analyzed group of 242, the methylation signature identified 71.4% of women under 50 years of age and 54.5% of women over 50 years of age with ovarian cancer with a specificity of 75%.
The findings were validated in an additional cohort of women, where 47 had ovarian cancer and 227 did not, and found that women with higher scores may have a higher risk of ovarian cancer.
In another study too published in “Nature Communications” also suggests the usefulness of cells collected during cervical cancer screening tests to detect early breast cancer, the most common in women that is usually detected by a mammography followed by a biopsy.
In this work, researchers coordinated by widow analyzed epigenetic changes in cervical cell samples from 329 women with breast cancer with poor prognosis and 869 women without this tumor.
As they explain in their work, they discovered that they could identify women with breast cancer based on an epigenetic signature.
Furthermore, they confirmed this finding in a smaller set of samples from 113 breast cancer patients and 225 women without cancer.
The authors conclude that their findings suggest that the use of epigenetic signatures can help in the detection of these cancers.
However, they acknowledge that more research and large-scale prospective clinical trials are needed to determine whether these tests could predict a woman’s chance of developing any of these cancers.