Translational Research Program

Biomarkers For Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis and Screening

Over 90% of women with ovarian cancer confined to the ovary survive five years, but the majority of all cases are diagnosed at a later stage, and few of them survive five years. That strong association between stage and survival suggests that detecting ovarian cancer early could dramatically reduce mortality, and it has been our goal to identify and develop strategies to accomplish this. Presently the only ovarian cancer early detection strategy makes use of a single tumor marker, CA 125, in conjunction with imaging technologies, 1-3 and there is a consensus that improvements are needed, in part because CA 125 is insensitive to early stage disease, and imaging is too non specific on its own. In our current ovarian cancer early detection project we have sought to define a systematic approach to identify many novel markers that could improve disease detection when used with CA 125. We have made substantial progress since our fist efforts to identify novel early detection markers. At present we are completing a cooperative blinded biomarker study to validate these markers of our own discovery along side markers from several research collaborators around the world. It is our goal to identify which of these markers can complement CA 125, and our preliminary results are promising. At the end of this study we will have identified a specific panel of biomarkers that improve CA 125 when used together and has performance suitable for further clinical evaluation. We now propose to further validate these biomarkers in retrospective and prospective screening studies. The success of our research plan relies on our theoretically sound but practical research methods and our valuable serum and data repositories, which allow us the unique opportunity to estimate the sensitivity and pre-clinical period of our markers and marker panel. With this information we intend to select a panel of screening markers that will achieve the earliest detection possible, and we intend to pilot them prospectively in a screening research trial in a population of BRCA mutation carriers. Moreover, because we and others continue to exploit modern biotechnology to identify other putative early detection and diagnostic markers, we will continue to improve our marker panel by developing assays for novel targets and evaluating them, along with our collaborators' markers, in a continuing blinded validation study. At the end of our project we intend to have identified and characterized a panel of high performing novel markers to the point where full clinical evaluation is warranted.