Posted Bill Couzens,Founder,0,5663971.story

Early Warning Sought For Ovarian Cancer

By HILARY WALDMAN | Courant Staff Writer
May 11, 2008

After Beatrice Robertson watched ovarian cancer cut down her former college roommate at the age of 52, the Milford woman did not hesitate to have her own ovaries — along with the rest of her reproductive organs — removed when she learned that she, too, was at high risk for the cancer known as the silent killer.

But Robertson hopes her daughters, both in their early 20s, will have a better choice.

While mammograms and Pap tests can save lives by unmasking breast and cervical cancer — other leading killers of women — in their treatable stages, there is no simple way to find ovarian cancer before it’s too late.

And while a Yale researcher says he is close to marketing a simple, inexpensive blood test that can accurately detect ovarian cancer before it spreads, other experts caution that women should hold off on the celebration.

“A lot of people have been spending a lot of time and effort to develop a viable screening test for ovarian cancer,” said Dr. Jonathan S. Berek, chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at the Stanford University School of Medicine in California. “And we’re a long way away from that.”

Part of what makes a test for ovarian cancer so elusive is really a silver lining of the disease.

It is extremely rare.

While few diseases haunt women as deeply as the threat of ovarian cancer, a vast majority of them are far more likely to suffer from heart disease, breast cancer, uterine cancer or even osteoporosis.

In the U.S., 1.7 percent of women would be expected to develop ovarian cancer at some point in their lifetimes, according to the National Institutes of Health. In comparison, 13 percent would be expected to get breast cancer.

“It’s the proverbial needle in a haystack,” Berek said.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that because it’s so hard to catch ovarian cancer early, three of five women diagnosed with the disease will probably die within five years.

“They’re terrified of it,” said Dr. Molly Brewer, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington. “All you have to do is read what happens to women with ovarian cancer. It’s terrifying.”

And thus, the race for a test.

For almost two decades, scores of researchers around the world have devoted their careers to finding the biological fingerprint that will tell doctors that traces of cancerous or precancerous cells have started to invade a woman’s ovaries or fallopian tubes. SEE LINK