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Diagnosing ovarian cancer during its initial stages, when treatment yields optimal results, presents a formidable challenge due to the nonspecific nature of symptoms such as bloating, constipation, and back pain, which often mimic more prevalent health issues. However, researchers are now poised to revolutionize the early detection of ovarian cancer through the advancement of a urine-based testing method.

CA-125 test to revolutionize ovarian cancer detection

Currently, no universally accepted screening method exists for ovarian cancer akin to mammograms for breast cancer or colonoscopies for colon cancer. While the CA-125 blood test holds promise in detection, its susceptibility to false positives complicates its efficacy. Moreover, the reliability of this test is hindered by the fact that less than 20% of ovarian tumors generate sufficient levels of the associated protein. Furthermore, ultrasound and other imaging modalities frequently fail to identify early-stage instances of the disease.

According to research conducted by Joseph Reiner, Ph.D., at Virginia Commonwealth University, clinical evidence indicates a significant increase in 5-year survival rates ranging from 50% to 75% when cancers are identified in their initial stages.

However, Reiner is currently engaged in the development of a promising novel diagnostic instrument, which has the potential to transform the early detection landscape of ovarian cancer, thereby offering numerous women a greater opportunity to combat this lethal ailment. His research team has devised a urine-based examination method capable of detecting ovarian cancer by pinpointing specific peptides, which are fragments of proteins. Previous research has indicated a significant abundance of these peptides in the urine of women afflicted with ovarian tumors.

How the urine test for ovarian cancer works

The challenge lies in finding an affordable method to accurately detect peptides. Reiner conceived the idea of using nanopore sensor technology to detect and identify peptides shed from ovarian cancer tissue into urine. In this method, urine samples are introduced to nanopores, and extremely small holes.

An electrical current flows through these nanopores, and molecules from the urine pass through them, emitting unique electrical signals. Reiner’s test employs nanopores coated with gold nanoparticles, which interact with cancer-related peptides, producing distinctive signal alterations serving as detection markers.