Women with hereditary mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes have an elevated risk of developing ovarian cancers. Surgery to remove the ovaries and fallopian tubes (salpingo-oophorectomy) can reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer by up to 80 per cent. As a result, many women elect to have surgery as a risk-reducing strategy. However, most women who have surgery have no evidence of cancer and surgically-induced menopause increases their risk of other diseases, including osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. A method to determine the need for surgery in this group of ‘at risk’ women is required.
The team is trialling a new diagnostic test for the detection of early-stage ovarian cancers in women carrying hereditary mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. Unlike genetic testing, which indicates only a predisposition to develop cancer, this new test identifies biological changes associated with the early stages of cancer formation. By using this test to detect early-stage cancers, most women could be spared the risks of surgery and its associated side-effects.
The goal is to establish this test in a regular screening program. Successful implementation will greatly reduce the number of women undergoing surgical intervention, allowing the majority to lead full, healthy lives.
Collaborators | Monash Medical Centre, Melbourne; Royal Adelaide Hospital, Adelaide
Supporters | The Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation