A team of researchers has designed and tested a new, noninvasive, at-home test that can advance the diagnosis of endometrial cancer by a year. It is a test capable of detecting between 90% and 100% of endometrial cancer cases and can be done both on cervical cytology samples obtained in the doctor’s office and on vaginal samples collected by the patient herself. at home.
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The development of this new method, who publishes the Journal of Clinical Oncology, is, according to the researchers, especially useful for women at risk of endometrial cancer. Members of the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL), the Catalan Institute of Oncology (ICO) and the University of Innsbruck (Austria) participate in the advance.
This is a test that measures the methylation level of two specific genes in cervical cytology samples. Methylations are DNA modifications that enable gene expression to be activated or deactivated.
Samples can be obtained through light scrapings of the cervix in the office, or through a small tampon-like device that the patient can use at home.
As explained by the researcher from the IDIBEL and ICO cancer and infection group Laura Costas, it would be feasible to use this method to diagnose endometrial cancer in populations at risk, bearing in mind that early diagnosis is key to survival in this type of cancer, one of the most frequent among women and that affects more than 400,000 women a year worldwide.
Currently, diagnostic methods are very invasive and painful, mostly through biopsies of the endometrium. According to Costas, a delay in diagnosis forces the use of more aggressive treatments and significantly decreases the survival of patients.
“This test has worked well both in the samples taken by the medical staff in consultation and in vaginal self-samples taken by the patient at home, which can reduce the pressure of care and the need for an initial referral to a specialist and contribute by both to a faster diagnosis”, summarized Costas.
According to the specialist, the new test can be applied in risk groups, such as postmenopausal women with gynecological bleeding, the main symptom of endometrial cancer, and in women with Lynch syndrome, an inherited genetic condition that predisposes them to developing cancer.
The researchers propose carrying out cost-effectiveness studies and analyzing large cohorts of these risk groups for endometrial cancer before implementing this new diagnostic method.
The study has also shown encouraging results on the usefulness of this method in the general population, not at risk, since it allows this cancer to be identified one year before its diagnosis. The researchers now want to test similar tests for diagnosing other gynecological cancers.