A new blood test could help diagnose cancer cases earlier.
Researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) developed a blood test to detect early onset ovarian cancer.
The test, called OvaPrint, is described as a "cell-free DNA methylation liquid biopsy for the risk assessment of high-grade serous ovarian cancer," according to the report published in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.
The test is "highly sensitive and specific" for women experiencing symptoms, the results showed — with the potential for future use in asymptomatic cases.
High-grade serous ovarian carcinoma (HGSOC) is often diagnosed at later stages, the research states.
It is the most common and lethal type of ovarian cancer, according to the National Institutes of Health.
As of now, the most effective way to identify a pelvic mass is through surgery, followed by pathological testing.
There are still no effective screening tools in women who are asymptomatic, the report stated.
USC researcher Dr. Bodour Salhia weighed in on the lack of effective screening for women in comments to Fox News Digital.
"If we can detect HGSOC in its earlier stages, we believe outcomes will be dramatically improved for women afflicted with this disease," she said.
"We focused on HGSOC first, because it is the most lethal and frequent type and we knew that other subtypes likely need different markers, something we confirmed in this study and is likely one of the reasons others' attempts to develop ovarian cancer screening tools haven’t been successful," she also said.
Patients have a more than 90% chance of living for five years or more when ovarian cancer is found in its initial stages, according to Salhia.
"Their chances drop to less than 40% if the cancer is detected in advanced stages," she said.
The researchers were able to develop OvaPrint by testing samples to distinguish ovarian cancers from benign masses.
OvaPrint achieved a "positive predictive value of 95% and a negative predictive value of 88% for discriminating HGSOC from benign masses, surpassing other commercial tests," the researchers reported.
The test proved to be less sensitive for non-HGSOC ovarian cancers, although it could potentially identify low-grade and borderline tumors with higher malignant potential.
The researchers are looking into a follow-up study to validate results in hundreds of patients, according to Salhia. This validation could lead to OvaPrint's commercial availability within the next two years.
Salhia said she and her team aim to optimize OvaPrint to be used eventually for broad population screening.
"Right now, doctors essentially have to take their best guess."
Dr. Brian Slomovitz, director of gynecologic oncology at Mount Sinai Medical Center, reacted to the developments in an interview with Fox News Digital, noting that the "novel" study is for early detection in women with pelvic masses.
"It is not a cancer screening test, which looks at normal-risk women who have not been diagnosed with a mass," he said. "In this group of women, investigators were able to identify those malignant tumors with a relatively high sensitivity and specificity."
He added, "This test is done to determine if a mass is malignant and needs to be removed. Also, in a real-world [scenario], it can determine if an oncologic surgeon should be doing the surgery."
Slomovitz mentioned the largest ovarian cancer screening trial done, the UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening (UKCTOCS), which identified a group of patients with earlier-stage disease when using their test.
"However, even with a positive result, this did not become standard of care because it didn’t demonstrate a survival difference between the groups," he said.
The doctor suggested that the prevalence of ovarian cancer should be taken into consideration when performing early detection testing.
"The prevalence of ovarian cancer in the population is one in 70," he said. "The statistical outcomes need to not only show a sensitivity and specificity but, in a real-world population, an acceptable negative predictive value, in order to not miss any diagnosis of cancer."
He added, "Nonetheless, it is interesting research and I look forward to future studies evaluating this test."