Blood test can save lives and reduce suffering

Biomarker test for cervical, ovarian and endometrial cancer

Blood test can save lives and reduce suffering

One in six women at some point seeks medical attention for pelvic pain, with symptoms for which surgery is performed, following an ultrasound, to check whether it is cancer of the uterus, ovaries or lining of the uterous. In the vast majority of cases, the procedure is done unnecessarily – there was no cancer.

Early detection or exclusion

“This is a major problem, from a human and a health-economic perspective, but it’s currently the only method we’ve got. On the other hand, many women who actually have cancer in their ovaries, fallopian tubes or endometrium (uterine mucous membrane) seek healthcare at a late stage, when the cancer has had time to develop very far. Both groups would benefit greatly from a simple test that can either detect or exclude the cancer at an early stage.”

So says Ulf Gyllensten, professor of medical molecular genetics at Uppsala University.

This simple, non-surgical test he is talking about is on its way. Together with clinicians and researchers in Gothenburg and Uppsala, and the company OLINK Proteomics, the team has developed a prototype with a unique technique for analysing many different proteins.

About to be patented

“We have searched among 500 proteins and found a combination of 20 that can be used to provide diagnostic information and identify any of the three cancers. Our prototype has been tested and checked on patients. We are now working on a patent application and planning an upcoming introduction. This is done in dialogue with the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in the United States, to find out the requirements for launching a new diagnostic kit”, says Gyllensten.

Possible screening

The test can thus be used partly to avoid surgical procedures, which always involve a risk, and partly to detect tumours earlier.

“You can imagine the test being used for screenings in the future, in which case we could potentially increase the five-year survival rate for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer to 90 per cent, which would be on par with breast and colon cancer. Today, the survival rate is below 50 per cent, as most cases are discovered late.

There is an approved biomarker test for ovarian cancer on the market.

“Our test covers three cancers at once. But we will start by launching a test for ovarian cancer, as it will be easier to compare with what exists on the market; furthermore, our test has better performance.

Updated: 4 September 2017

Text: Jörgen Olsson