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Ovarian Cancer Markers: February 20, 2011

Our bodies are made of all kind of genetic patterns and molecules and researchers are honing in on certain markers when it comes to ovarian cancer. “Tumor markers traditionally have been a blood test known as CA-125,” explains Dr. Edward Grendys, a gynecologic oncologist on the Lee Memorial Health System medical staff.

CA-125 is a protein marker that has recently made headlines. High levels of this protein have been associated with ovarian cancer but Dr. Grendys says the tests are not always accurate. “The traditional way to use tumor markers is after the diagnosis of ovarian cancer. The problem is that the marker is very non-specific. Even with negative markers, patients can still have evidence of the disease. There can also be disease of ovarian cancer types, about 1 out of 5 or 20 percent which don’t produce the marker at all. So herein lies the problem.”

At the same time, physicians, oncologists, and researchers are looking at what they call “risk marker” for any genetic components that could lead to ovarian cancer. “Really, the major risk factor we have is family history. We get a very detailed analysis of history. How many people, especially in the first and second generations have had either gynecologic cancers or breast cancers or related diseases,” adds Dr. Grendys.

Aside from these two markers, researchers are currently experimenting with new blood tests and various genetic analysis techniques to lead them down the right road in diagnoses and treatment of ovarian cancer.