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Mol Cell Proteomics. 2004 Apr;3(4):355-66. Epub 2004 Feb 5.

Progress and challenges in screening for early detection of ovarian cancer.

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Department of Gynaecological Oncology, Cancer Institute, Bart's and The London, Queen Mary's School of Medicine & Dentistry, London EC1M 6GR, United Kingdom.


Ovarian cancer is characterize by few early symptoms, presentation at an advanced stage, and poor survival. As a result, it is the most frequent cause of death from gynecological cancer. During the last decade, a research effort has been directed toward improving outcomes for ovarian cancer by screening for preclinical, early stage disease using both imaging techniques and serum markers. Numerous biomarkers have shown potential in samples from clinically diagnosed ovarian cancer patients, but few have been thoroughly assessed in preclinical disease and screening. The most thoroughly investigated biomarker in ovarian cancer screening is CA125. Prospective studies have demonstrated that both CA125 and transvaginal ultrasound can detect a significant proportion of preclinical ovarian cancers, and refinements in interpretation of results have improved sensitivity and reduced the false-positive rate of screening. There is preliminary evidence that screening can improve survival, but the impact of screening on mortality from ovarian cancer is still unclear. Prospective studies of screening are in progress in both the general population and high-risk population, including the United Kingdom Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening (UKCTOCS), a randomized trial involving 200,000 postmenopausal women designed to document the impact of screening on mortality. Recent advances in technology for the study of the serum proteome offer exciting opportunities for the identification of novel biomarkers or patterns of markers that will have greater sensitivity and lead time for preclinical disease than CA125. Considerable interest and controversy has been generated by initial results utilizing surface-enhanced laser desorption/ionization (SELDI) in ovarian cancer. There are challenging issues related to the design of studies to evaluate SELDI and other proteomic technology, as well as the reproducibility, sensitivity, and specificity of this new technology. Large serum banks such as that assembled in UKCTOCS, which contain preclinical samples from patients who later developed ovarian cancer and other disorders, provide a unique resource for carefully designed studies of proteomic technology. There is a sound basis for optimism that further developments in serum proteomic analysis will provide powerful methods for screening in ovarian cancer and many other diseases.

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