New ovarian cancer test extremely accurate using single drop of blood; Georgia Tech trial to be expanded & extended to other cancers

Was 100% accurate in identifying women with ovarian cancer and may save many lives through early identification.

Scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology have attained very promising results on their initial investigations of a new test for ovarian cancer. Using a new technique involving mass spectrometry of a single drop of blood serum, the test correctly identified women with ovarian cancer in 100% of the patients tested. The results were published online Aug 11 in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, & Prevention Research.(1)

“Because ovarian cancer is a disease of relatively low prevalence, it’s essential that tests for it be extremely accurate. We believe we may have developed such a test,” said John McDonald, chief research scientist at the Ovarian Cancer Institute (Atlanta) and professor of biology at Georgia Tech.

The measurement step in the test, developed by the research group of Facundo Fernandez, associate professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Tech, uses a single drop of blood serum, which is vaporized by hot helium plasma.

As the molecules from the serum become electrically charged, a mass spectrometer is used to measure their relative abundance. The test looks at the small molecules involved in metabolism that are in the serum, known as metabolites.

Machine learning techniques developed by Alex Gray, assistant professor in the College of Computing and the Center for the Study of Systems Biology, were then used to sort the sets of metabolites that were found in cancerous plasma from the ones found in healthy samples.

Then, McDonald’s lab mapped the results between the metabolites found in both sets of tissue to discover the biological meaning of these metabolic changes.

The assay did extremely well in initial tests involving 94 subjects.

In addition to being able to generate results using only a drop of blood serum:

• The test proved to be 100% accurate in distinguishing sera from women with ovarian cancer from normal controls.

• In addition it registered neither a single false positive nor a false negative

The group is currently in the midst of conducting the next set of assays, this time with 500 patients. “The caveat is we don’t currently have 500 patients with the same type of ovarian cancer, so we’re going to look at other types of ovarian cancer,” said Fernandez.

“It’s possible that there are also signatures for other cancers, not just ovarian, so we’re also going to be using the same approach to look at other types of cancers. We’ll be working with collaborators in Atlanta and elsewhere.”

In addition to having a relatively low prevalence, ovarian cancer is also asymptomatic in the early stages. Therefore, if further testing confirms the ability to accurately detect ovarian cancer by analyzing metabolites in the serum of women, doctors will be able detect the disease early and save many lives.

1. See “Rapid Mass Spectrometric Metabolic Profiling of Blood Sera Detects Ovarian Cancer with High Accuracy,”  Zhou M, McDonald JF, et al.

Source: Georgia Institute of Technology news release, Aug 11, 2010

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3 thoughts on “New ovarian cancer test extremely accurate using single drop of blood; Georgia Tech trial to be expanded & extended to other cancers”

  1. susanmarie1 says:

    It is understood that ovarian cancer exhibits very esoteric symptoms during the early onset. These symptoms include and are not limited to frequent urination/infections, bloated abdomen, inhibited apetite or feeling very full fast or loss of apetite, pelvic pain/heaviness, etc. I have all of these symptoms and my PCP basically said that he would only test me if I already had ovarian cancer. My answer was “how would you know?” Then he went on to say that my gyn/ob should be the only doctor to test for this insidious disease and upon explaining my symptoms that have occured approximatley 8 months (3 urinary tract infections have come back positive and this gyn gave me Cipro with 5 refills) to a CFIDS/FMS patient. I just recently lost 10 lbs., for which I’m grateful, but I was not even trying. This looney doc must think I just fell off the cabbage truck. Needless to say, I will try to replace both the PCP and the GYN/OB. I suffer from chronic headaches, but never have I thought that I had a brain tumor. That’s the mentality that the gyn. used to basically mock me and classify me as a hypochondriac, nor do I really think that I have ovarian cancer, but I sure would like to rule it out!

    1. STurner says:

      I read the reply from this lady and she says she had a brain tumor. Even though she took a test for ovarian cancer, how come it was not detected that she had a cancerous brain tumor?
      Reason I ask, is I have the very same systems. 3 urinary tracts, constant having to urinate, bloating, alot of pain, and feeling like I can throw up. I can feel, at times, blood in my salvia .. and the Q10 test came out negative.
      But I am still in alot of pain and have bad headaches? Could it be possible that I have cancer somewhere else, or what would you think, by the symtoms it could be?

  2. Minnesota says:

    It pays to be proactive and if you click on the article link you can find an email address to contact the team at Georgia Tech. Maybe they’re using it or planning more trials there.

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