For years, researchers have looked for a K way to detect ovarian cancer early. A 2002 report raised hopes that a blood test using protein-based proteomics technology might work. But now researchers in Texas say that claim is not biologically plausible.

Original Study

The original study, published in the British journal The Lancet, reported dramatic results using mass spectrometry technology to search for a pattern of proteins in blood that might indicate ovarian cancer. The study reported that this method correctly identified all of the people in the study who actually had ovarian cancer, while only misdiagnosing three healthy people.

New View

Researchers at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, re-analyzed data from that study and now conclude the test is not biologically plausible. They say the problem is the way the mass spectrometry data was analyzed by the researchers.


"We view this as a cautionary tale. If you are not careful with this new technology, whose quirks we don't fully understand, you can find results that may be due to something other than biology," says lead author of the study, Keith Baggerly, associate professor in the department of biostatistics and applied mathematics.

He says the finding "illustrates the need for researchers to set standards by which to conduct proteomics research." Specifically, all laboratories doing proteomics research should use common protocols so that results from one lab can be verified by other labs. "We are moving in that direction. The technology being used to develop a variety of proteomic diagnostic tests is getting better and we are getting more reproducible results," Baggerly says.

Want to Keep Reading?

Continue reading with a Health Confidential membership.

Sign up now Already have an account? Sign in