Salvaging detection of early-stage ovarian malignancies when ca125 is not informative

Charles J. Dunton, Megan L. Hutchcraft, Rowan G. Bullock, Lesley E. Northrop, Frederick R. Ueland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: Ovarian cancer is the deadliest gynecologic cancer, with no recommended screening test to assist with early detection. Cancer antigen 125 (CA125) is a serum biomarker commonly used by clinicians to assess preoperative cancer risk, but it underperforms in premenopausal women, early-stage malignancies, and several histologic subtypes. OVA1 is a multivariate index assay that combines CA125 and four other serum proteins to assess the malignant risk of an adnexal mass. Objective: To evaluate the performance of OVA1 in a cohort of patients with low-risk serum CA125 values. Study Design: We analyzed patient data from previous collections (N = 2305, prevalence = 4.5%) where CA125 levels were at or below 67 units/milliliter (U/mL) for pre-menopausal women and 35 U/mL for post-menopausal women. We compare the performance of OVA1 to CA125 in classifying the risk of malignancy in this cohort, including sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive values. Results: The overall sensitivity of OVA1 in patients with a low-risk serum CA125 was 59% with a false-positive rate of 30%. OVA1 detected over 50% of ovarian malignancies in premenopausal women despite a low-risk serum CA125. OVA1 also correctly identified 63% of early-stage cancers missed by CA125. The most common epithelial ovarian cancer subtypes in the study population were mucinous (25%) and serous (23%) carcinomas. Despite a low-risk CA125, OVA1 successfully detected 83% of serous, 58% of mucinous, and 50% of clear cell ovarian cancers. Conclusions: As a standalone test, CA125 misses a significant number of ovarian malignancies that can be detected by OVA1. This is particularly important for premenopausal women and early-stage cancers, which have a much better long-term survival than late-stage malignancies. Using OVA1 in the setting of a normal serum CA125 can help identify at-risk ovarian tumors for referral to a gynecologic oncologist, potentially improving overall survival.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1440
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This research received no grant funding.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • CA125
  • Early-stage detection
  • OVA1
  • Ovarian malignancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Biochemistry


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