The scheme will continue in the county for the next five years
A new method of diagnosing bowel cancer using 'light' may soon be available, according to researchers from Queen's University, Belfast.
The ideas were presented at the British Pharmaceutical Conference in Manchester.
A photosensitive drug, which is attracted specifically to cancer cells, is put onto the body.
When a blue light is applied to the area, it activates the drug and shows any abnormal cells as red.
This makes it easier to identify abnormal tissue that could otherwise be missed.
The technique, known as 'photodynamic diagnosis', is already used to diagnose and treat other types of cancers, for example, certain skin cancers.
Until now, to reach the cells of the colon and rectum it has been necessary to introduce the drug into the bloodstream through an intravenous needle.
This can cause side effects such as nausea and vomiting and changes in blood pressure. It can also cause the patient's skin to burn more easily in sunlight.
Pharmacy researchers at Queen's University in Belfast are working on a way to deliver the photosensitiser drug directly to the colon, avoiding side effects.
Lead researcher, Dr Ryan Donnelly, Lecturer in Pharmaceutics, said: "Our long-term aim is to develop a coated tablet that can be taken orally prior to the diagnostic test, so there is no need for the patient to have the drug injected.
"This has the potential to enhance the success of early diagnosis in bowel cancer, which can be vital for these patients," he said.