A team of international researchers have created a test to enable diagnosis of ovarian cancer two years earlier than existing methods.

Queen’s University Belfast, University of Manchester, the University of New South Wales Australia, University College London and the University of Milan were part of the team of creators.

Scientists developed the screening test using a biomarker panel of four proteins associated with epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC). It uses an algorithm to analyse a blood sample and identify any abnormal cancer-related protein levels.

During a study, the team assessed blood samples from 80 individuals during seven years.

Queen’s University Belfast School of Biological Sciences researcher Dr Bobby Graham said: “Firstly, we discovered that the presence of the biomarker panel will enable us to detect EOC. We then developed a screening test to detect this biomarker panel, making this a relatively simple diagnostic test.

“The screening test identifies ovarian cancer up to two years before the current tests allow.”

EOC is a common type of ovarian cancer that originates in the tissue covering the ovary. It is the sixth most common cancer in women living in the UK.

The researchers added that detection of cancer at stage one has a 90% chance of five-year survival, while the chance decreases to 22% at stage three or four.

Cancer Research UK research information manager Dr Rachel Shaw said: “Around half of ovarian cancer cases are picked up at a late stage when treatment is less likely to be successful. So developing simple tests like these that could help detect the disease sooner is essential.”

Cancer Research UK and the Eve Appeal charity funded the development project of the test.

Researchers are now planning to evaluate the test using a wider set of samples for use in an ovarian cancer screening programme.