Joining FORCEs Newsletter

Joining FORCES is the FORCE newsletter with news, views and supportive information for individuals concerned about hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.

Hereditary Cancer Info > FORCE Publications > Newsletter > Archives > Ovarian Cancer Prevalence and Early Detection

Ovarian Cancer Prevalence and Early Detection

by Sue Friedman

Presented at the 2006 Joining FORCEs Conference by Dr. Rebecca Sutphen, Associate Professor, Departments of Interdisciplinary Oncology and Pediatrics, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, University of South Florida College of Medicine.

Dr. Sutphen summarized results of the Tampa Bay Ovarian Cancer Study (TBOCS), which examined the prevalence of BRCA mutations in ovarian cancer patients. TBOCS demonstrated that BRCA carriers account for about 14 percent of the most common type of ovarian cancer; certain forms of the disease were unlikely to be due to a mutation.

Dr. Sutphen’s ovarian cancer detection talk focused on her research studying Lysophosphatidic Acid (LPA), a substance found in the pelvic fluid of women with ovarian cancer. LPA is produced by ovarian cancer cells and promotes the growth of tumors, establishing a direct association between this biomarker and ovarian cancer. In her study, 93 percent of the women with ovarian cancer had elevated LPA levels in their blood, compared with healthy women. LPA was elevated in women with early stage cancer, encouraging optimism for use in early detection.

Dr. Sutphen emphasized the need for near 100 percent accuracy when screening for ovarian cancer in the general population. In contrast, current recommendations for screening of BRCA carriers and other high-risk individuals include CA125, a less accurate blood test than LPA.

Dr. Sutphen discussed the limitation of taking a purely “proteomic fingerprint” approach to screening, which only looks at protein patterns in the blood of cancer patients without determining the actual substances and their role in cancer. Her research strategy includes a combination of proteomics, protein identification, and nanotechnology to increase the ability to detect small amounts of LPA and other biomarkers. She presented a simplif ed overview of MALDI-TOF, the sophisticated proteomics process used in her research. Despite encouraging preliminary results, Dr. Sutphen believes a reliable blood test for early detection of ovarian cancer won’t be available for at least three years.

Ovarian Cancer Detection Research Study

Dr. Sutphen was awarded a $3.5 million grant from the National Institute of Health to analyze preoperative blood samples from women with suspected ovarian cancer. The study, which is being performed in collaboration with community physicians, involves collecting blood samples from approximately 1,000 women throughout the Tampa Bay region who are undergoing surgery for suspected ovarian cancer. The goal is to identify proteomic patterns and biomarkers that can distinguish between ovarian cancer patients and healthy controls toward the development of a blood test for ovarian cancer detection.


R Sutphen, Y Xu, GD Wilbanks, J Fiorica, EC Grendys, Jr., JP LaPolla, et al. Lysophospholipids Are Potential Biomarkers of Ovarian Cancer. Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention, July 2004; volume 13, no. 7: p. 1185-1191.

T Pal, J Permuth-Wey, J Betts, J Krischer, J Fiorica, R. Sutphen, et al. BRCA1 and BRCA2 Mutations Account for a Large Proportion of Ovarian Carcinoma Cases. Cancer, November 2005; vol. 104, no.12: p. 2807-2816.


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