Novel Biomarkers for Ovarian Cancer Screening

Ovarian cancer (OC) remains a major health concern worldwide, accounting for 6% of all cancer deaths. It is the second most common gynecological neoplasm, with over 2,800 new cases diagnosed in 2017, in Canada. The majority of OC cases remain asymptomatic in the early stage and present at advanced stages, at which the disease is rarely curable by existing standard of care. Therefore, ovarian cancer shows the highest mortality rate among gynecologic cancers, with 5‑year survival rate for advanced OC determined as 29%. Importantly, disease outcome is significantly higher (5-year survival rates over 90%) with early diagnosis, in stages I and II. Therefore, having a plasma biomarker, for early detection of primary ovarian cancer, is highly valuable. Such a biomarker could be used in periodic screening of asymptomatic women for ovarian cancer and also as a diagnostic tool for detecting ovarian cancer in women with broad range of unspecific symptoms of ovarian cancer.

It is important to note, that none of the known OC serological biomarkers such as CA125 or HE4 demonstrates utility as a screening test in asymptomatic women, due to their poor specificity and sensitivity for patients presenting with early stage of OC. Therefore, ovarian cancer biomarkers with significant discriminative power without compromising on sensitivity, applicable prior to symptoms, are yet to be discovered. Our team is working on several novel biomarkers for early detection of ovarian cancer with an ultimate goal of developing a simple urine based test for ovarian cancer screening.