An antibody discovered by researchers may be useful in identifying, and possibly aid in diagnosing, women who are at a higher risk of ovarian cancer. The study, published Wednesday in the online journal, Cancer Epidemiology, found that a the particular antibody is found in blood and develops an immune system response to a protein called mesothelin. Mesothelin is present in normal tissue but in abundance in advanced ovarian cancer cells.
Researchers found that women with ovarian cancer and women experiencing unexplained fertility, who are known to have an increased risk of ovarian cancer, are most likely to have the mesothelin antibody in comparison to healthy women and women with benign ovarian growths.
Deputy Chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, Dr. Len Lichtenfeld claims, "This study found that there are antibodies to mesothelin circulating in women that have infertility. Are these women who will develop ovarian cancer? Are these antibodies related to infertility? This research gives us some clues, and leads to many more questions," he said.
According to the American Cancer Society, every year almost 22,000 American women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and more than 15,000 die from the disease. Typically, ovarian cancer has a five-year survival rate of 94 percent if found early; however, most women who develop ovarian cancer aren’t diagnosed until the disease has advanced.
"The finding is extremely important because at present medical tests are unable to detect ovarian cancer at its early stages, which is why death rates from this disease are so high,” said professor Judith Luborsky, lead scientist of the study. “Our approach to discovering cancer biomarkers was unique in this study. Instead of investigating molecules specific to ovarian cancer alone, we asked what molecules women with a risk of ovarian cancer and those with ovarian cancer had in common,” she said.