Researchers from Queen's University Belfast have developed a test that may be able to detect ovarian cancer up to two years earlier than current tests.
They discovered that the presence of four proteins together, known as a biomarker panel, indicates the likelihood of Epithelial Ovarian Cancer - a type of ovarian cancer.
Using these biomarkers the researchers then developed a screening test that initial studies suggest may be able to detect ovarian cancer up to two years before current detection tests.
The research was carried out in partnership with the University of New South Wales Australia, the University of Milan, University of Manchester and University College London.
The study has been published in British Journal of Cancer.
It involved the analysis of blood samples from 80 people across a seven-year period.
Dr Bobby Graham is from the School of Biological Sciences at Queen's.
He said: "Firstly, we discovered that the presence of the biomarker panel will enable us to detect EOC [Epithelial Ovarian Cancer].
"We then developed a screening test to detect this biomarker panel, making this a relatively simple diagnostic test.
"The algorithm designed will screen the blood sample and flag any abnormal levels of the proteins associated with the cancer.
"The screening test identifies ovarian cancer up to two years before the current tests allow."
Most ovarian cancers are epithelial ovarian cancers, which is a cancer that forms in the tissue covering the ovary.
If diagnosed at stage one of EOC, there is a 90% chance of five-year survival - compared to 22% if diagnosed at a stage three or four.
Dr Graham added: "The results of this study are encouraging, however, we now want to focus on testing it in a wider sample set so that we can use the data to advocate for an ovarian cancer screening programme."
The project was jointly funded by the Eve Appeal charity and Cancer Research UK.
Main image: A general view of Queens University in Belfast in 2010 | Image: Paul Faith/PA Archive/PA Images