Tampons containing ovarian tumor cells may help detect cancer

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According to a new study in the journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, researchers at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia, have found tumor DNA in cells trapped in tampons placed in the vaginas of patients with ovarian cancer. For the study, the researchers wanted to determine whether ovarian tumor cells migrate to the vagina, so they enrolled women with ovarian cancer who were about to undergo surgery to remove a pelvic mass.

Of five women with advanced serious ovarian cancer whose fallopian tubes were intact, three women had tumor cells in the tampons with the same TP53 mutation that was found in their tumors. The results suggest that cancer cells do migrate from the ovaries in the upper part of the reproductive tract down into the vagina.

The researchers hope to further develop the test, which utilized a type of DNA sequencing known as deep sequencing, so that they can detect early-stage cancer or precancerous lesions prior to becoming malignant. The researchers plan to expand the study to a larger population of women with ovarian cancer and to make the deep DNA sequencing test more sensitive.

The study suggest that tampons could be used to detect ovarian cancer, but further development and future studies are required.

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Tumor DNA in cells trapped in tampons placed in the vaginas of patients with ovarian cancer.

Tampons could one day help doctors spot early-stage ovarian cancer in women at high risk for this deadly disease, a small new study suggests.

In the study, researchers found tumor DNA in cells trapped in ordinary tampons that were placed in the vaginas of ovarian cancer patients.

"In about 60 percent of patients who had their [fallopian] tubes still intact, we were able to pick up tumor cells, or essentially tumor DNA, in the vaginal tract," said Dr. Charles Landen, an associate professor of gynecologic oncology at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, and one of the study researchers. (Having intact fallopian tubes is important to the findings because the tubes are the conduits that connect the ovaries with the lower parts of the reproductive system, including the uterus and the vagina.)

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