Ovarian Cancer, ground-breaking discoveries

Wellbeing of Women has invested over £6 million in ovarian cancer research and the five-year survival rate has doubled since 1970. Our two new projects are looking at improving diagnosis which is key to saving lives. 

Ovarian Cancer claims the lives of 4000 women every year and is known as the “silent killer” because women often only show clear signs of the disease when it is advanced and by then the cancer has spread.

Sufferers then need major surgery and chemotherapy, but this will extend their life only by around 5 years. In 2014 over 7000 women in the UK were diagnosed with ovarian cancer and only 35% survive for over 10 years. Yet if ovarian cancer is diagnosed at its earliest stage, over 90% of women survive for over 5 years. The current tests often fail to pick up early cancers and improvements in diagnosis are urgently needed.

In 2014 England’s top doctor, Professor Dame Sally Davies, described (in her report The Health of the 51%: Women) how ovarian cancer kills over 4000 women every year and urged doctors and scientists to urgently find better ways to diagnose and treat these patients.

Early diagnosis is key to saving lives

Mrs Sudha Sundar, Consultant in Gynaecological Oncology at the Pan Birmingham Gynaecological Cancer Centre and Research Advisor to Wellbeing of Women, highlights the importance of early diagnosis:

“Earlier diagnosis can save lives. We know that women with ovarian cancer experience symptoms such as bloating, discomfort and fullness after eating. Unfortunately, women don’t always recognise these changes and ovarian cancer is considered difficult to diagnose. We do know that 1 in 3 women with ovarian cancer in the UK die within the first year after diagnosis. Most shockingly, over 10% of UK women with ovarian cancer actually never receive any treatment because they are too ill by the time they are diagnosed.

“Increasing awareness among women and their doctors can help women come forward and be diagnosed earlier. Research shows that women with ovarian cancer who have been diagnosed earlier have better outcomes, so earlier diagnosis can potentially save lives.”

Wellbeing of Women is proud to announce two research projects which are focused on this urgent need to improve early diagnosis of ovarian cancer:

davidjeevanDr David Jeevan at the University of Birmingham will work on developing a simple, effective new urine test for ovarian cancer which detects changes in hormone patterns. This builds on similar work which has been carried out to improve diagnosis of breast cancer and prostate cancer. Such a convenient test could save many thousands of women’s lives and have worldwide implications. Dr Jeevan says:

“During my clinical training I have worked closely with women with different gynaecological cancers, but no condition has left such a profound impact on me as ovarian cancer. It is devastating to see how this disease manifests and the deterioration in an ovarian cancer patient’s journey is always saddening to observe. I want a future where ovarian cancer becomes a pathology we understand better and can diagnose earlier to save lives. I draw parallels with cervical cancer where the discovery of the role of HPV, helped by Wellbeing of Women’s funding, has driven screening and is saving women’s lives. I now want to be at the forefront of innovation in diagnosing and treating ovarian cancer.”

Dr Garth Funston at the University of Manchester is aiming to improve blood tests for ovarian cancer. The current standard test is far from ideal as other medical conditions can give a positive result, and it does not pick up all ovarian cancers with around half of patients with early cancer having a normal result. Dr Funston will look at a new blood test which he believes will be more effective, and will ascertain whether combining the two tests makes diagnosis even more accurate. Dr Funston told us:

“As ovarian cancer survival is heavily dependent on stage of diagnosis, early detection has the potential to save many lives. By identifying the most accurate blood test for ovarian cancer, this study will inform guidelines and help ensure patients undergo the best available testing to facilitate early diagnosis and treatment.”

These projects are addressing an urgent need and are only possible thanks to your support. Wellbeing of Women has funded over £6 million of ovarian cancer research. Join us during Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and help us continue to fund research which transforms the lives of women.

Please support our research projects by donating today