Northern Ireland

Ovarian cancer: Test may detect condition 'up to two years earlier'

Queen's University in Belfast
Image caption Researchers from Queen's University in Belfast helped develop the test

Queen's University researchers have helped develop a test that they say may be able to detect ovarian cancer up to two years earlier than current approaches.

They have discovered that the presence of four proteins together, known as a biomarker panel, indicates the likelihood of epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC).

The study involved the analysis of blood samples from 80 people.

This was across a seven-year period.

The researchers used the biomarkers to develop a screening test that initial studies suggest may be able to detect ovarian cancer up to two years before current detection tests.

Dr Rachel Shaw, research information manager at Cancer Research UK, said about 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," she said.

The research was carried out in partnership with the University of New South Wales Australia, University of Milan, University of Manchester and University College London.

Image copyright Motortion/Getty
Image caption The study involved the analysis of blood samples from 80 people

Most cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed late, when there are few treatment options.

The cancer is difficult to pick up as symptoms, including abdominal pain, persistent bloating and difficulty eating, are common in other conditions.

Dr Bobby Graham from the School of Biological Sciences at Queen's University Belfast, who is lead author of the study, explained how the test was developed.

"Firstly, we discovered that the presence of the biomarker panel will enable us to detect EOC," he said.

"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."

The study is published in the British Journal of Cancer as part of Nature Group publication.

The project was jointly funded by the Eve Appeal charity and Cancer Research UK.

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