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Novel Immune-Based Biomarker Helps Detect Ovarian Cancer Years before Diagnosis

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 18 Jun 2024
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Image: The new immune-based biomarker could pave the way for early detection HGOC (Photo courtesy of 123RF)
Image: The new immune-based biomarker could pave the way for early detection HGOC (Photo courtesy of 123RF)

High-grade ovarian cancer (HGOC) ranks as the fifth-leading cause of cancer-related death among women. Over 90% of cases are diagnosed at advanced stages after the cancer has spread, posing significant challenges for treatment. While ovarian cancer is highly treatable if detected early, existing tests for conventional biomarkers have been unable to identify the microscopic, metastatic early lesions often located in the fallopian tubes. However, the discovery of a new immune-based biomarker could now significantly change the outlook for many women.

Researchers at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP, Philadelphia, PA, USA) have identified a novel immune-based biomarker that could facilitate the early detection of HGOC, potentially saving lives. In their research, they analyzed T-cell receptors (TCRs) in nearly 500 blood samples from individuals who were pre-diagnostically identified with ovarian cancer, as well as from healthy or benign controls. TCRs are proteins on T cells, which are a type of immune cell that recognizes and attaches to foreign particles. Their findings indicated that in the initial stages of HGOC, roughly two to four years before the disease is typically diagnosed, the immune system reacts more strongly, producing a measurable biomarker.

From this, the researchers concluded that monitoring this disease within that specific timeframe, before there are noticeable changes in the body’s immune response, could allow for earlier therapeutic interventions. They also noted that further research is necessary to develop a diagnostic test that is sensitive enough to detect the novel immune biomarker. The aim is for such testing to complement existing approved HGOC screening protocols.

"Early detection of ovarian cancer could mean the difference between life and death for millions of women," said Bo Li, PhD, a core faculty member in the Center for Computational and Genomic Medicine at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "We believe our findings can be a gamechanger, providing insights for the development of an immune-based biomarker to detect early-stage ovarian cancers, as well as helping to potentially advance pediatric cancer research." The findings were published in Cell Reports Medicine on June 14, 2024

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