Eearly cancer detection company Oncimmune has struck a major commercial deal which could help it enter the Chinese market.

Hong Kong-based Genostics has signed a distribution agreement to market Oncimmune's EarlyCDT platform technology in China, where cancer is the leading cause of death with more than 700,000 cases of lung cancer diagnosed each year.

As part of the deal, Genostics has invested £10m into Nottingham-based Oncimmune after buying more than 6.4 million shares at a discounted price.

Oncimmune is behind a blood test that is capable of detecting lung cancer up to four years earlier than standard methods, and has already launched the product in the US. It works by detecting cancer antibodies that appear very early on in the blood, allowing doctors to identify the disease early.

"Oncimmune continues to deliver on our stated strategy at the time of the IPO; a key part of this was a commercial agreement for China," said chief executive Geoffrey Hamilton-Fairley.

"Today, we are delighted to have signed an agreement for the EarlyCDT platform with Genostics for the People's Republic of China, a partner we have confidence has the reach to deliver on this very large market opportunity.

"We look forward to working with them and believe the funds from the equity subscription of this deal will unlock further opportunities across indications as well allowing us to develop new technologies that will result in more lives being saved, at the same time as money is saved for healthcare systems."

Dr Cheung To, chairman of Genostics, added: "Genostics is delighted to sign this agreement with Oncimmune and we are excited by the prospect of commercialising the EarlyCDT platform in the People's Republic of China.

"The test has proven it can detect cancer up to four years earlier than other methods and this has the potential to significantly improve the outcomes for cancer patients through early detection of the disease and by enhancing the treatment pathway."

Oncimmune said the deal with Genostics could pave the way for a launch into China within three years, subject to regulatory approval.