New Test Can Detect Ovarian Cancer Through Urine Samples

Although still in the development stages, a promising new urine test could potentially identify ovarian cancer-specific molecules in urine, leading to an earlier and more accurate diagnosis.

Ovarian cancer is often referred to as the "silent killer" because its symptoms can be barely noticeable at first or mimic other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

While the rates of ovarian cancer have been declining slightly over the past few decades, it is still one of the leading causes of death among women. That's why early diagnosis is so important.

Healthcare providers diagnose ovarian cancer through imaging tests such as ultrasound or CT scans, blood tests, including the CA 125 test, and by taking a sample of the suspected ovary during surgery. Often, surgery is the only way to confirm an ovarian cancer diagnosis.

Now, researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University have discovered a new method of detecting ovarian cancer through a simple urine test. The scientists presented their findings at the 68th Biophysical Society Annual Meeting, held February 10 to 14, 2024, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Using nanopore sensing — which can detect thousands of tiny molecules called peptides — the scientists identified and analyzed 13 ovarian cancer-related peptides, including those derived from LRG‐1, a specific biomarker found in the urine of women diagnosed with the disease.

While other methods of detecting peptides already exist, they can be complicated and expensive. The scientists say now that they know the peptide signatures of ovarian cancer, their goal is to develop a test that can be used with information from other tests like the CA‐125 blood test and ultrasound to diagnose ovarian cancer in its earlier stages.

However, it's unclear when a nanopore-based urine test for ovarian cancer might be available. Still, the researchers are hopeful that once it's developed, it could help boost the accuracy of early-stage ovarian cancer detection — leading to better outcomes and improved survival rates for women with this "silent" type of cancer.


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