Health topic

Ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer accounts for more deaths than any other gynecologic malignancy1

Most general practitioners will see a woman with undiagnosed ovarian cancer only once every few years, making it an unlikely consideration in their diagnostic thinking. Women with ovarian cancer may experience bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, or urinary symptoms, yet not consider the possibility of cancer as the cause.

In the majority of women with ovarian cancer, by the time the diagnosis is made, the cancer is at a late stage. In these women, the 5-year survival rate is less than 30%. Some genetic predispositions have been discovered, such as mutations in cancer susceptibility genes, including BRCA1 or BRCA2, or family history of ovarian cancers.2

The ovarian cancer diagnosis rate has been slowly falling over the past 20 years1

Screening of healthy women for ovarian cancer once relied on ultrasounds or blood tests that measured the levels of two proteins, CA 125 and HE4. A new approach to better assess the risk of epithelial ovarian cancer in women with a pelvic mass uses the combination of CA 125 and HE4 in a mathematical algorithm along with the menopausal status of the woman. The dual marker combination can be used to classify women into low- and high-risk groups, providing meaningful guidance to help make important treatment decisions.

Roche is committed to helping identify the best possible treatment for each patient by accurately identifying the type of cancer and the likely course of the illness

Our commitment to ovarian cancer includes immunohistochemistry (IHC) assays that enable pathology labs to deliver accurate results with confidence. With this knowledge, doctors can identify more patients for the right therapy at the right time.

Understanding ovarian cancer subtypes


The most common subtype, originating along the lining of the ovarian surface, fallopian tube, or peritoneum. Clinical presentation can be classified as acute or subacute  depending on symptoms. Acute cases present with bowel obstruction or venous thromboembolism while subacute cases may present with non-specific symptoms such as abdominal bloating or pain.

Germ cell4

Ovarian germ cell tumors develop from germ cells. Most cases of this cancer are benign, with <5% of ovarian cancers being malignant germ cell tumors. Women younger than 30 are at higher risk of developing germ cell tumors, although they can occur at any age.


Stromal ovarian cancer is the rarest of these subtypes and most frequently develops alongside signs of hormonal production, such as hirsutism and virilization, menstrual changes, or early puberty. Stromal cancers are often found in adolescents and young adults, although adult granulosa cell tumors commonly occur at older ages.

Ovarian cancer data


Researchers are pushing for a better understanding and better diagnostic standards

Being able to find ovarian cancer early could have a great impact on the cure rate. Researchers are evaluating new screening methods, including the analysis of protein patterns in the blood (called proteomics) to find ovarian cancer early.7

Scientists continue to study the genes responsible for familial ovarian cancer. This research is beginning to yield clues about how these genes normally work and how disrupting their action can lead to cancer. This information could be promising in helping lead to new prevention and treatment measures.7

New information about how much BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations may increase ovarian cancer risk is also helping women make practical decisions about prevention.7


Treatments are evolving along with biomarker advances

In addition to the proven chemotherapy drugs and drug combinations, more are being tested.7

Targeted therapy represents a promising approach to treating ovarian cancer, offering the ability to destroy cancer cells while minimizing damage to normal cells.

One targeted therapy is being studied specifically for people with malignant ascites. Poly(ADP-ribose) polymerases (PARPs) are key enzymes involved in cell survival and death. PARP inhibitors have been approved for patients with ovarian cancer caused by BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations.7

Research shows that microRNA, very small pieces of RNA, can lower levels of BRCA1 mutations. New drugs that can target microRNA are being investigated as possible therapeutic options for ovarian cancer.7

Answer her ovarian cancer questions with definitive results

Roche offers a broad menu of highly specific tumor marker assays across a range of cancers. Using the Risk Of Malignancy Algorithm (ROMA) Calculation Tool, gynecologic oncologists can assess the dual marker combination HE4 and CA 125, stratifying patients into low- or high-risk groups. Find out how Roche can help you give her the assurance she needs with accurate, meaningful results on the spot.

Learn more


  1. American Cancer Society. Key statistics for ovarian cancer. Accessed August 10, 2021. 
  2. American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2019. American Cancer Society; 2019.
  3. Desai A, Xu J, Aysola K, et al. Epithelial ovarian cancer: an overview. World J Transl Med. 2014;3:1-8.
  4. Cleveland Clinic. Ovarian germ cell tumors. Accessed September 10, 2021.
  5. Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance. Stromal cell ovarian cancer. Accessed September 10, 2021.
  6. American Cancer Society. Survival rates for ovarian cancer. Accessed September 10, 2021.
  7. American Cancer Society. What’s new in ovarian cancer research? Accessed August 16, 2021. 
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