A research team from the University of Adelaide and Griffith University in Australia has developed a new blood test to detect early-stage ovarian cancer.

The development of the new blood test comes following research on a bacterial toxin first discovered in Adelaide.

Every year, ovarian cancer kills more than 1,000 women in Australia and 150,000 worldwide.

Prior to its availability for clinicians, the new test will require further testing. It is capable of dramatically improving early detection of ovarian cancer.

A harmless portion of the toxin has now been engineered by the team to improve its specificity for the cancer glycan. This was used to detect it in blood samples collected from women with ovarian cancer.

“The development of the new blood test comes following research on a bacterial toxin first discovered in Adelaide, Australia.”

University of Adelaide Research Centre for Infectious Diseases director professor James Paton said: “Ovarian cancer is notoriously difficult to detect in its early stages, when there are more options for treatment and survival rates are better. Our new test is, therefore, a potential game changer.”

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Based on a paper published in Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, it was found that the new blood test could diagnose significant levels of the cancer glycan in blood samples from more than 90% of women with early-stage ovarian cancer and in 100% of those taken from later stages of the disease.

Griffith University Institute for Glycomics deputy director professor Michael Jennings said: “Detection of this tumour marker may also play a role in a simple liquid biopsy to monitor disease stage and treatment.”

At present, the research team is on the lookout for scientific and commercial partners to further test the technology with more patient samples and to implement it for mass screening.