Researchers in Belfast have deducted that a blood test may detect ovarian cancer up to two years earlier.
The study, published in the journal Nature, analysed blood samples from 80 people over a seven-year period.
Scientists then put the samples through a screening method involving a biomarker (a naturally occurring molecule, gene, or characteristic by which disease can be identified) made up of four proteins seen together.
"Firstly, we discovered that the presence of the biomarker panel will enable us to detect EOC (Epithelial Ovarian Cancer)," lead author of the study Dr Bobby Graham from the School of Biological Sciences at Queen's University Belfast said.
"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."
Ovarian cancer is considered to be one of the most common and deadly cancers in women worldwide. The high mortality rate of this cancer is due to its poor prognosis.
If diagnosed at stage one of EOC, there is a 90% chance of five-year survival compared to 22% if diagnosed at stage three or four.
However, Dr Graham remains hopeful.
"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."
"Around half of ovarian cancer cases are picked up at a late stage when treatment is less likely to be successful," said Dr Rachel Shaw, research information manager at Cancer Research UK.
"So developing simple tests like these that could help detect the disease sooner is essential.
"At Cancer Research UK, we're working hard to find new ways to detect cancer early and improve the tests already available. It's really exciting to see these encouraging results for this type of ovarian cancer."