New FDA-approved blood test for Ovarian cancer

June 9, 2010 3:15:25 PM PDT
A new FDA-approved blood test could save millions of women's lives.

More than a million women have a tumor or cyst on their ovaries, but that doesn't mean they all have cancer. Traditionally, some patients had to go through several surgeries just to find out their fate. Now, the cancer question could be answered in a drop of blood. The first blood test for ovarian masses was just approved by the FDA.

More than a million women are living with ovarian masses. Thousand of them will be told that they have cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 14 thousand women will die this year from ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is the fifth-leading cause of cancer death in women.

Traditional tests missed Cindy Hastings' cancer. She had an ovarian mass. A routine surgery turned into a hysterectomy when doctors finally spotted it. Then, she had a second surgery to make sure the cancer didn't spread.

Hastings said, "That was pretty devastating because, you know, when someone is telling you it's not cancer and then you find out it is."

Pathologist, Dr. Eric Fung, the chief scientific officer at Vermillion, Inc., hopes the blood test his team created will help people, like Hastings, avoid multiple surgeries and get the right treatment sooner.

Talking about ovarian cancer, he said, "It's known as the silent killer because it's difficult to diagnose."

The test, called ova1, reads five specific proteins in a woman's blood. It can determine if an ovarian mass is malignant or benign. It can also help to determine if the patient needs to see a specialist for surgery.

Hastings said "If I would have known and had the ova1 prior, I wouldn't have had to have the second surgery. I would have just gone right on to the oncology doctor."

In a study, conventional tests, like cat scans, found 72 percent of ovarian cancers. The new blood test spotted 92 percent.

Hastings is still fighting her battle and staying strong by preparing for a half marathon. She said, "I'll get through. I may be coming in at 8 p.m. at night, but I'll get through it." She hopes her strength will push her to win the race against ovarian cancer as well.

Center for Disease Control doctors say that there are more than 300 thousand ovarian mass surgeries in the US each year. With this new test, they hope to eliminate some of those surgeries and help women achieve better outcomes.