FactsNewsProductsPap test: early detection tool for ovarian cancer

December 6, 2023

Today, the discovery of early-stage ovarian cancer is mostly fortuitous and rare, accounting for just 10% of cases. In the near future, however, a test could turn the tide by detecting signs of the disease early, thanks to Pap smears. This is the insight of a team of Italian researchers presented in the pages of Science Translational Medicine, which manages to reveal traces of the disease several years before it manifests.
Maurizio D’Incalci, professor of pharmacology in Humanitas University and coordinator of the study along with Translational Genomics Unit colleague Sergio Marchini, says that, identifying ovarian cancer in the early stages means a cure, as opposed to late diagnoses, which are often lethal. In fact, survival at 5 years after diagnosis for high-grade serous carcinomas, the most common form of ovarian cancer, in advanced stages is estimated to be around 30%, compared with 90% in early stages. And it is precisely to identify the disease early-a cancer that accounts for about 5,200 diagnoses a year in Italy-that several research groups are working to develop an early detection test. The Humanitas team, exploits samples taken from women who had undergone a Pap test years earlier.
Hence the researchers’ idea to go and combine the combined expertise of medicine, molecular biology, biostatistics and computer science for early diagnosis.

The results

Pap smears from women who later developed ovarian cancer and women who did not develop the disease (113 and 77, respectively, from different Italian hospitals) were analyzed in the study. In this way, D’Incalci explains, the researchers already knew to a large extent what to look for in Pap smear samples because they already knew the molecular characteristics of the tumors, particularly high-grade serous carcinomas, the ones they focused on.
In the first analysis, specific mutations of p53, an oncosuppressor gene often mutated in tumors, were searched for. Through this research it was possible to observe that, the same p53 mutations of tumors were also found in Pap test samples from years earlier. In fact, this marker is not specific enough, because mutations in this gene are found in normal tissues as a product of aging.
Professor D’Incalci next turned his attention to other molecular signatures of tumors, such as their genomic instability, appreciable with alterations in chromosomes and highly specific, noting that this feature was already present in the early stages of the disease, even up to 9 years before diagnosis. The test — put to the test in the retrospective study for now and to be considered for research purposes only, the scholars point out — has an accuracy of 81 percent.

The professor therefore believes that the Pap test is an extremely important test both as a preventive tool and as a tool for research purposes for early diagnosis.

Pap smears are relatively easy to obtain and widespread due to existing screening initiatives, which could function as a validation tool for the early detection test.

Hospitex International believes ovarian cancer prevention is essential, going to promote PapTest24 and supports initiatives for research purposes so that there are more diagnostic and preventive opportunities.

Author: Anna Lisa Bonfranceschi
Source: the Republic – Oncoline – December 06, 2023
To read the full article, please refer to Oncoline

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Ovarian cancer prevention
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