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Physicians may be able to detect early-stage ovarian cancer using contrast-enhanced ultrasound combined with blood analyses, according researchers from Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

“The fact that so many women are not diagnosed until their disease is advanced confirms the inadequacy of pelvic examinations and standard ultrasound in detecting early-stage ovarian cancer and the dire need for a validated screening method for the detection of early-stage disease,” said lead author David Fishman, MD. “The ability to detect ovarian cancer by a simple blood test has long been the holy grail of screening tests. Although a single biomarker blood test would be ideal and simple, it is not possible at present,” said Dr Fishman.

In their study, Dr Fishman and colleagues found that contrast-enhanced ultrasound, a noninvasive medical imaging technique, may help confirm or refute the ability of newly-discovered biomarkers to accurately detect early-stage ovarian cancer. According to the authors, although proteomics and ultrasound are of limited value as early-detection tools when used separately, their use in combination shows promise in that it may allow diagnosis at an earlier stage.

“We also found that the contrast agents may significantly improve the diagnostic ability of ultrasound to identify early microvascular changes that are known to be associated with early-stage ovarian cancer,” said Arthur Fleischer, MD, a co-author of the article.

According to data presented with the study, ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related death. If this disease is detected early, survival percentages are greater than 90%, compared with 30% for disease that is detected at an advanced stage. The study findings were published in the American Journal of Roentgenology (2010;194[2]:349-54). ONA