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Blood Antibody May Signal Start of Ovarian Cancer
Date:8/17/2011

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have found an antibody that might someday be useful in identifying women who have a higher risk of ovarian cancer, or possibly diagnosing early ovarian cancer.

This particular antibody, which was detected in blood, develops as an immune system response to a protein called mesothelin. This protein is present in advanced ovarian cancer. Although mesothelin is found in normal tissue, it's found in abundance in ovarian cancer cells.

The current study found that infertile women, who are known to have an increased risk of ovarian cancer, were more likely to have the mesothelin antibody. The researchers also found that women with ovarian cancer were more likely to have this antibody.

"We're taking a novel approach to try to identify earlier biomarkers of ovarian cancer by looking at high-risk women," said study author Judith Luborsky, a professor of pharmacology, obstetrics and gynecology, and preventive medicine at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

"This study found that there are antibodies to mesothelin circulating in women that have infertility," noted Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. Exactly what these findings mean isn't yet clear, however. "Are these women who will develop ovarian cancer? Are these antibodies related to infertility? This research gives us some clues, and leads to many more questions," he said.

As for an individual woman who's currently concerned about ovarian cancer, Lichtenfeld said, "I would be very cautious about drawing any conclusion about the meaning of an elevated antibody level in an individual woman."

Results of the study will be published Aug. 17 in the online version of the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Almost 22,000 American women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year, and m
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