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New blood test trial in West Midlands to diagnose ovarian cancer earlier

15 May 2023

Clear test tubes.jpg

We know early diagnosis can save lives, but with no screening programme and symptoms often only presenting at a later stage, women are often relying on luck.

In the West Midlands, Professor Sudha Sundar and a collaboration between University of Birmingham and local NHS trusts, are running a £2 million trial where women experiencing possible symptoms of ovarian cancer will be offered a ROMA (Risk of Ovarian Malignancy Algorithm) blood test. This test could identify key markers of ovarian cancer at an earlier stage. The project aims to discover whether the ROMA test has a higher chance of detecting ovarian cancer earlier than the current CA125 blood test used and whether implementing this across the NHS would be cost-effective. 

Marie-Claire Platt, Head of Policy and Research at Ovarian Cancer Action, commented "Previous attempts to find an ovarian cancer screening tool that saves lives have failed. We urgently need to test new strategies and fund new research. We welcome this investment from NHS England to pilot an exciting new testing model in the West Midlands. Getting this right will save thousands of lives a year." 

The importance of early diagnosis

Around 7500 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the UK every year, often at stage three and four where prognosis rates are low. 90% of women diagnosed at stage one will survive but only 15/% at stage four, so early diagnosis is vital to give women the best chance of survival.

How does the test work?

The advanced ROMA test used during this 18 month trial in Sandwell, Walsall, Sandwell West Birmingham, will identify key markers of ovarian cancer at an earlier stage.  

If a patient receives a positive test, they will be referred to their local Trust to attend a new one stop clinic where they’ll see a consultant, undergo a specialist scan and a further consultation where the results will be shared. They will be referred for further treatment if needed.

The final part of the study, funded by the NHS Cancer Programme, will see 41,000 primary care samples sent to the Black Country Pathology Service and South Tyne and Wear laboratories to accurately establish whether using the ROMA test rather than CA125 will be cost effective for the NHS. The results from the study, funded by the NHS Cancer Programme and the Small Business Research Initiative, will be analysed and used to change the way this cancer is diagnosed in the future. 

Are you concerned about ovarian cancer symptoms? or would like to know more about how ovarian cancer is diagnosed?

Read out health information about diagnosis and what to look out for