HE4 as a biomarker for ovarian and endometrial cancer management

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Ovarian and endometrial cancer will be diagnosed in over 63,000 women in 2009, resulting in 22,000 deaths in the USA. Histologic screening, such as pap smears for detection of cervical cancer, is not feasible for these diseases given difficulty with access to the tissue. Thus, a serum- screening test using a biomarker or panel of biomarkers would be useful to aid in cancer diagnosis, detection of recurrence and as a means to monitor response to therapy. In this review, we focus on the human epididymis protein (HE)4 gene, which appears to have potential as a biomarker for both of these diseases. The structure and methods of detection of HE4 are discussed. Preliminary data show that HE4 may have more potential than cancer antigen 125 in discriminating benign from cancerous ovarian masses, and has the strongest correlation with endometrial cancer of all markers tested to date. Utilizing risk stratification, a panel of biomarkers including HE4 may ultimately be useful for detecting ovarian and endometrial cancer at an early stage in patients at high risk.

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