Diaz and his colleagues applied the PapGene test to samples from ovarian and endometrial cancers of about 20 women with each type at Johns Hopkins and three other institutions, detecting both early and late-stage disease in both cancers tested.
The test -- which is years away from being available clinically -- would cost less than $100 and perhaps substantially less in several years after more research has been completed, Diaz said, adding that he'd like follow-up studies to include hundreds of women.
Another expert said the findings are "exciting" and indicate that the test has potential.
"Ovarian cancer is really the cancer we have no way of screening for, and no early symptoms, so anything we can do to allow us to pick it up early is very exciting," said Dr. Diana Contreras, director of gynecologic oncology at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y. "And certainly a test that can be done easily and cheaply is very exciting."
Abnormal bleeding in postmenopausal women is one way uterine cancer can be detected before reaching advanced stages. But ovarian cancer typically presents with vague symptoms easily mistaken for other conditions, making early detection extremely difficult.
Therefore, even a screening test detecting ovarian cancer 40 percent of the time it's present -- especially with no false-positive results -- is superior to what's available, Diaz and Contreras said.
"I think this study says the test has potential," Contreras said. "We must move forward with finding an answer, because ovarian cancer is so deadly."
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers a Pap test fact sheet
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