Researchers Examine Urine-Based Test for Early Detection of Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian Cancer: Scientists are developing a urine-based test to help identify ovarian cancer in its early stages.

The study, conducted by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University, was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. They’ll also be presenting their findings at the Biophysical Society Annual Meeting in Philadelphia next week.

The aim of the research is for healthcare professionals to use this test alongside CA-125 blood tests, transvaginal ultrasound, and family medical history to detect, diagnose, and treat ovarian cancer early.

Dr. Deanna Gerber, a gynecological oncologist at NYU Langone’s Perlmutter Cancer Center, who wasn’t part of the study, explained, “There are currently no effective screening tests available for ovarian cancer.” She further emphasized, “As a result, most ovarian cancers are diagnosed at later stages when symptoms develop. This technology is promising because anything that enhances our ability to detect cancer earlier will likely improve our chances of curing more cases of ovarian cancer.”

Ovarian cancer and peptides

Our urine contains numerous tiny particles called peptides, and some of these can indicate the presence of ovarian cancer.

Current methods for detecting these cancer-linked molecules aren’t always straightforward or cost-effective.

Researchers have developed a new method that they believe could efficiently and accurately detect these peptides. It involves nanopore sensing, which can potentially identify multiple peptides by passing them through tiny pores and measuring changes in electrical current or other properties.

The team identified and studied 13 peptides, including those from a known biomarker called leucine-rich a-2 glycoprotein (LRG-1), found in the urine of ovarian cancer patients.

With this knowledge, researchers believe they can detect ovarian cancer at earlier stages than current tests allow.

Dr. Gerber finds the science behind this approach promising. She says it offers hope for patients and healthcare providers by aiming to improve outcomes for gynecologic cancers. While the ultimate goal is cancer prevention, early detection can significantly improve outcomes and survival rates.

Needs more research on the urine test for ovarian cancer

While the research holds promise for potentially saving lives, experts remain cautious and have some lingering questions.

Dr. Diana Pearre, a gynecologic oncologist at The Roy and Patricia Disney Family Cancer Center in California, who wasn’t involved in the study, commented, “While the research shows promise, it’s not ready for widespread use as a screening or diagnostic test for ovarian cancer.”

She added, “I’m hopeful that this technology could eventually assist us in detecting ovarian cancer. Currently, we rely on pelvic ultrasounds and blood tests for tumor markers in our ovarian cancer evaluations. There’s currently no urine test available for this purpose.”

Dr. Pearre emphasized that the new method is still far from being implemented on a large scale and may require further testing to assess its effectiveness in detecting a rare disease like ovarian cancer. However, she sees it as a promising development that could enhance ovarian cancer evaluations in the future if it proves successful.

Some Information Regarding Nanotechnology

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“Nanopore technology isn’t currently employed for detecting or treating illnesses, but it’s accessible in a compact form for handheld genome sequencing,” explained Pearre.

Nanotechnology isn’t a product but a method that examines substances at the nanometer scale, according to the International Institute for Nanotechnology.

It’s not just about dealing with tiny objects but leveraging the unique properties of nanoscale materials to solve problems.

“Nanotechnology is a cutting-edge field, useful not only for diagnosis but also for treatment,” said Dr. Kecia Gaither, an OB/GYN and expert in maternal fetal medicine. “[It’s] been used in diagnosing various cancers, infections, and skin conditions.”

Gaither, not part of the research, is optimistic about its potential for diagnosing ovarian cancer noninvasively, contrasting with the invasive methods commonly used. She predicts nanotechnology will see increased use in diagnosing and treating various illnesses soon.


In summary, scientists at Virginia Commonwealth University are making significant strides in the early detection of ovarian through the development of a urine-based test. Published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society and to be presented at the Biophysical Society Annual Meeting, their research aims to provide healthcare professionals with a valuable tool alongside existing screening methods.

Dr. Deanna Gerber underscores the urgency of early detection, as current screening options for ovarian are limited, resulting in diagnoses often made at later stages. The innovative approach of utilizing peptides in urine for detection, particularly through nanopore sensing, offers hope for improved outcomes and survival rates in cancer patients. While further research is needed to validate the effectiveness of this method on a larger scale, experts like Dr. Diana Pearre recognize its potential to enhance ovarian cancer evaluations in the future.

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