BALTIMORE, Md.–Doctors are putting a new spin on an old test to help spot deadly diseases where there are no screening tests.
The pap smear has proven to be a simple and effective test for cervical cancer and the drop in deaths from the disease has made it a top screening tool.
Now researchers are trying to apply the test’s success to ovarian and endometrial cancer.
Dr. Luis Diaz, associate professor of oncology at John Hopkins, said, “One of the reasons we’re so excited about this research is that there are no screening tests for ovarian cancer and it’s such a deadly disease because it is detected so late.”
Researchers at John Hopkins University assembled a list of genetic mutations common in ovarian and endometrial cancer.
Then they developed a test that could spot these mutations in fluid taken from a pap smear.
Dr. Diaz said, “In 100 percent of endometrial cancers, we can find the exact same mutation in a tumor and a pap smear sample.”
They were also able to detect nearly half of ovarian cancers.
One of the most significant findings is what they didn’t find; there were no false positive results.
So far, the test has only been studied in the lab.
Researchers hope to have a version for the doctor’s office ready in three to five years.
Studies show about 20,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year and 40,000 are diagnosed with endometrial cancer.