Circular RNA as a blood biomarker for ovarian cancer

Natalia Bednarz Summer Scholar 2023

Ovarian cancer is known as the “silent killer”. It has vague symptoms that many women experience on a regular basis, which contributes to its late detection and poor outcome.

Ovarian cancer may lead to a higher concentration of a protein called CA-125 in the bloodstream. This is used as a blood test as part of the diagnosis tests for ovarian cancer. However, this test is not 100% specific – having a raised CA-125 level does not necessarily indicate the presence of ovarian cancer and vice versa. This means that we need an accurate and convenient test to diagnose ovarian cancer. The sooner the cancer is caught, the more treatment options are available, increasing a patient’s chances of survival.

Circular RNAs have gained popularity in the field of cancer biomarkers. Our research has identified a gene which is expressed in ovarian cancer but not in normal, healthy ovaries. We have identified a circular version of this gene, known as a circular RNA or circRNA. Since circular RNAs are inherently stable and can accumulate in body fluids, we believe that circRNA could be used to develop a useful test to diagnose ovarian cancer, without a need for a biopsy.

This project will investigate if circRNA can be detected in blood samples from cancer patients. The findings should enable us to design a larger study to develop circRNA into a reliable blood test for ovarian cancer detection. We hope this research will have a positive impact on earlier detection of ovarian cancer and patient survival.

The study of circular RNAs can pave the way for early detection of ovarian cancer and improved patient survival says summer scholar Natalia.

Start year
End year
Principal Investigator
Dr Jean McBryan
Natalia Bednarz
Summer Scholars
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