None of the 28 potential serum markers tested in the study out performed CA-125. But for screening, the researchers noted, doctors would need a test that could detect a signal from tumors more than 6 months before diagnosis; CA-125 had its strongest signal within 6 months of diagnosis.
Although the results may seem disappointing, the findings can inform future efforts to detect the disease early, the study authors wrote. This idea was echoed by several biomarker experts who were not involved in the work but who stressed the importance of the findings.
“This is a landmark study,” said Dr. Mark H. Greene of NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, who co-authored an accompanying editorial. “For the first time, we have a rigorous analysis of years of ovarian cancer biomarker research to determine whether these markers represent an improvement over where the field began, with CA-125.”
The results, he continued, show that a new approach is needed to find an effective screening strategy for ovarian cancer. (Preliminary results from the study were presented in 2009.)
NCI Cancer Bulletin