An antibody present in infertile women might also be an early biomarker for ovarian cancer, raising hopes that more lives can be saved with early detection of what is often called a "silent killer," since ovarian cancer is often not detected until late stages. Researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago say that the marker could be an antibody that responds to the presence of mesothelin, which is found all over ovarian cancer cells, but in limited numbers on normal cells.
"The finding is extremely important because at present medical tests are unable to detect ovarian cancer in its early stages, which is why death rates from this disease are so high," Judith Luborsky, the study's lead author, said in a release. "Our approach to discovering cancer biomarkers was unique in this study. Instead of investigating molecules specific to ovarian cancer alone, we asked what molecules women with a risk of ovarian cancer and those with ovarian cancer had in common."
Researchers had already known there is a link between infertility and ovarian cancer. The Rush study tied them both together with the presence of mesothelin, although they do not really know why this is the case. Nevertheless, it could be developed as a screening test "to help us conquer ovarian cancer," Luborsky said. "It has been hypothesized that an autoimmune response precedes or somehow contributes to the development and progression of malignant tumors."