A new blood test from researchers at association member Christiana Care Health System, in Wilmington, Del., might help doctors diagnose breast cancer more quickly and effectively.

Christiana Care’s Helen F. Graham Cancer Center and Research Institute developed the test in collaboration with the molecular information company GenPro. The simple blood screening can be used with mammography to determine whether someone has breast cancer and whether cancer is likely to spread.

The blood test uses epigenetics to identify a biomarker on blood cell DNA within the body’s immune system. Because the test doesn’t need to target a specific tumor to detect cancer, it is potentially more cost-effective and less complex than other, existing screenings.

The test would detect the recurrence and spread of cancer faster than standard imaging, allowing for earlier diagnosis and treatment. Using this test “could minimize over-diagnosis and treatment while potentially providing significant savings in health-care related costs,” said Jennifer Sims-Mourtada, PhD, director of translational breast cancer research.

Christiana Care and GenPro have filed a provisional patent for the blood test and plan to conduct clinical trials to move toward Food and Drug Administration approval.