Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

September 24, 1999

New test for early detection of cancer announced; U of G played role

University of Guelph researchers have helped develop a new blood test that detects ovarian cancer at an early, treatable stage.

The blood test, announced this week at the Second Annual Ovarian Cancer National Alliance (OCNA) Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C., also holds promise for treatment options in other reproductive cancers. The blood test detected 75 per cent of the early-stage ovarian cancer samples.

University of Guelph senior research associate Doug Gaudette and Prof. Bruce Holub, Department of Human Biology and Nutritional Sciences, collaborated with Dr. Gordon Mills, Chair of Molecular Oncology and Therapeutics at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas and Dr. Yan Xu of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation to develop the patented blood test. It is being developed by Atairgin Technologies, Inc. in Irvine, California.

"Diagnosis of ovarian cancer during the early stages could mean dramatically higher survival rates for women afflicted with this disease," Gaudette said. Currently, diagnosis in approximately 70 per cent of women occurs during the more advanced stages of the disease.

Atairgin will begin clinical trials this year. "Our blood test may provide the answer for an effective early detection tool, and we believe this powerful, patented technology may enable us to develop possible treatment options for ovarian, breast and other reproductive cancers," said Patrick Walsh, Atairgin's chief executive officer.

The University of Guelph's Gaudette and Holub became involved six years ago when researchers at the Toronto Hospital asked them to purify and analyze the active component in ascites fluid. This fluid accumulates in the abdominal cavity of cancer patients, including women with ovarian cancer.

Using thin-layer chromatography and gas-liquid chromatographic analyses, the researchers purified the fluid fraction and found that the active compound in the ascites fluid was lysophosphatidic acid (lysoPA), a lipid regulator present at high levels in cancerous tissues.

Holub suggested that looking at the levels of lysoPA in the blood might be of greater diagnostic value, as accumulation of ascites fluid in cancer patients is usually not detectable until the later stages of cancer. Blood tests are relatively simple and inexpensive to perform and because the levels of lysoPA in the blood of ovarian cancer patients remains high throughout tumor growth, early detection is possible.

Gaudette and Holub are continuing their collaboration with Atairgin. They are currently evaluating unique lipid-based diagnostic markers for various cancers, including breast cancer.


Douglas Gaudette, Human Biology and Nutritional Sciences (519) 824-4120, Ext. 3638

Prof. Bruce Holub, Human Biology and Nutritional Sciences (519) 824-4120, Ext. 3743

Patrick Walsh, Chief Executive Officer, Atairgin Technologies, Inc. 1-800-833-1193 Website:

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