Researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) discovered a novel immune-based biomarker that could enable potential early detection of high-grade ovarian cancer (HGOC).

The researchers at CHOP worked together with those at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, for the study.

In the study, they analysed T-cell receptors (TCRs) in nearly 500 blood samples from patients with ovarian cancer, along with healthy (control) people from the Nurses’ Health Study.

TCRs are a type of immune cells found in T cells, which identify and bind to foreign substances.

The study analysis showed that in the early stages of HGOC, a healthier immune system reacts with a significantly stronger response, producing a measurable biomarker.

HGOC is one of the biggest causes of cancer-related death among women, where more than 90% of women are diagnosed when the disease has reached advanced stages.

Ovarian cancer is highly treatable when caught early, but tests with conventional biomarkers cannot detect microscopic, metastatic early lesions that often develop in the fallopian tubes.

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Center for Computational and Genomic Medicine core faculty member Bo Li said: “Early detection of ovarian cancer could mean the difference between life and death for millions of women.

“We believe our findings can be a game-changer, providing insights for the development of an immune-based biomarker to detect early-stage ovarian cancers, as well as helping to potentially advance pediatric cancer research.”

The researchers found that treatment interventions can be started earlier by tracking the disease within that specific timeframe before the body’s immune response changes.

Also, it requires additional research to support the development of a diagnostic test with adequate sensitivity to detect the novel immune biomarker.

Furthermore, the researchers believe that their novel biomarker will complement current approved HGOC screening protocols.

The research was supported by NCI grants CA258524 and Q16 CA245318, and sample collection was partially supported by the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at UTSW.