Researcher Shirley Lomeli feels especially passionate about this project. Her father died from prostate cancer two years ago.
Lomeli says a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, which has been around for 27 years, did not tell doctors what they needed to know.
"It was elevated but not high enough for the doctor to say you need to get biopsied," she said.
Many things can elevate a PSA level, like an enlarged prostate or infection. So by time doctors took action for Lomeli's father, it was too late.
Now Lomeli, along with her mentor Dr. Gang Zeng, is working on the A-PSA test.
A study of 131 men shows it correctly identified men with cancer much more accurately than the PSA test, about 79 percent accuracy compared to 52 percent. It also reduced false positives, which means less anxiety and less unnecessary biopsies.
"The traditional PSA test looks for one specific antigen that the body secretes when a man supposedly has prostate cancer," Lomeli said. "This new test looks for six antibodies that the body creates to fight cancer plus the PSA, so it's much more accurate."
The next step is to create specific tests more sensitive to high risk groups such as African-American men.
Lomeli says it looks promising.
"This would not fix what happened to my dad, but I almost feel like I'm doing whatever I can," she said. "Hopefully this can save many people."