Researchers have found it’s possible to detect ovarian cancer gene mutations in vaginal fluid samples — a finding they hope is a step toward an effective screening test for the disease. The findings were published in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

In a pilot study, Charles Landen, M.D., of the University of Virginia School of Medicine in Charlottesville, and colleagues were able to detect tumor DNA in tampons from several women with advanced ovarian cancer. It’s a “proof of principle” that genetic evidence of the cancer can be uncovered in vaginal samples, they noted.

Three of those women had a prior tubal ligation and there was no evidence of tumor DNA in their vaginal fluid. But of the five women with intact fallopian tubes, three had tumor DNA in their samples. “That’s a 60 percent rate, and that’s not good enough,” Landen told HealthDay.

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So one of the next steps, he noted, is to try to refine the test to make it more sensitive. The researchers also plan to study women with early-stage ovarian cancer, to see if DNA mutations are detectable at that point. That will be key for the test to be used for screening or early diagnosis, Landen said.

David Mutch, M.D., a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Washington University in St. Louis, who wrote an editorial published with the study, told HealthDay that the new findings lay the groundwork for future research. “Will this become a screening test?” Mutch said. “It shows promise. But we still need to go through the necessary steps to validate it.”


  1. Erickson, Britt K., MD, et al. “Detection of Somatic TP53 Mutations in Tampons of Patients With High-Grade Serous Ovarian Cancer.” Obstetrics & Gynecology. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000000484. October 6, 2014.