Dianne Klefstad’s quilting group may have saved her life.

Klefstad, 61, was rescued from deadly ovarian cancer by a $30 blood test after the group signed up for a study that detected her disease. The research, released Thursday, may lead to an annual test recommended for all women over age 50.

For the majority of ovarian cancer patients, tumors go undiagnosed until the disease progresses to its fatal stages. Researchers were able to detect early development of three aggressive cancer cases and two borderline tumors when doctors monitored fluctuations of a protein known as CA-125, according to the study of 3,252 women released Thursday by the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

About 21,550 patients were diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the United States last year, and 14,600 died from it, according to the National Cancer Institute. The cancer can be permanently removed if caught before it spreads. The new CA-125 testing method is now being evaluated in 200,000 women in Britain, with results expected by 2015.

“I’ve been in this field for over 10 years and have seen a lot of false starts, so I’m excited when I see these results,” said Karen Lu, the study’s lead author and the MD Anderson doctor who removed Klefstad’s tumor. “Finding a screening mechanism would be the holy grail in the fight against ovarian cancer.”

The ovarian cancer study was highlighted among 4,500 research project summaries released Thursday ahead of the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, which begins June 4 in Chicago.

Klefstad, who has quilted blankets as a hobby for 30 years, joined a quilting group in 2004 to meet new friends after she moved from one side of Houston to the other. One quilter was a hospital volunteer and suggested they join the clinical trial.

Klefstad thought the drives to the hospital and the free lunches would be a good way to bond with her new friends.