Early detection test for women with the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene

Early detection test for women with the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene is a Research Project for the Ovarian Cancer Biomarkers Research Group, under the Centre for Cancer Research.

Project Leader

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