In October, organizers of the DCEG Applied Epidemiology Seminar Series hosted a seminar on biomarkers for early detection of ovarian cancer. The event included an invited talk by Steven Skates, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Medicine (Biostatistics) at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, entitled “Early Detection for Ovarian Cancer: From CA-125 to ROCA to UKCTOCS,” and presentations from three discussants well versed in biomarker and clinical research who provided a multi-disciplinary perspective: Nicolas Wentzensen, M.D., Ph.D., of DCEG, Lori Minasian, M.D., of the NCI Division of Cancer Prevention, and Lisa M. McShane, Ph.D., of the NCI Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis.
Early detection of ovarian cancer has the potential to improve the poor mortality statistics which make it the fifth leading cause of cancer death in the US and the leading cause of death for women with reproductive organ cancers. At the time CA-125 was discovered there were hopes that this biomarker, elevated in many ovarian cancers, could be used for screening. Single threshold measures or results from algorithms like the Risk of Ovarian Cancer Algorithm (ROCA), developed by Dr. Skates and colleagues, have shown promise.
Dr. Skates, who disclosed his nature as an “eternal optimist” as a possible conflict of interest, outlined three decades of study, including results from UKCTOCS, a large, randomized trial of ROCA and ultrasound screening in the United Kingdom, and potential pitfalls and future directions of epidemiologic, biomarker and genomic research on this cancer.
Moderator Christine Berg, M.D., DCEG consultant, led a lively post-presentation discussion and question-and-answer session.