Why do Research?
Research is an important part of caring for women with cancer. Research takes time, energy, commitment, intellect, politics, enthusiasm and a whole lot of patients!
Professionals in the field of oncology are slowly seeing improvements in the outcome of women with all sorts of cancer, but particularly breast cancer. This undoubtedly has arisen because of the huge breast cancer lobby, resulting in an avalanche of funds to research all areas associated with breast cancer, not only at the basic science level but also at the clinical and psycho-social levels.
It is clear that as a result of these endeavours we can promise our community of women that a diagnosis of breast cancer is associated with an approximately 85% survival rate. Unfortunately we cannot even hope to see such terrific figures in women with ovarian cancer for at least another one or two decades of research.
All is not doom and gloom, however. Whilst our overall cure rates are not substantially improving, our survival rates are so that women are living longer with this disease, with a better quality of life and this is undoubtedly due to research efforts.
Australian women with ovarian cancer are in the good position of having access to large international multi-centre trials of new agents because Australia belongs to the Gynaecological Cancer Intergroup which is a consortium of 14 national societies who get together twice a year to promote and supervise new trials in new agents for ovarian cancer.
Australia has already been lucky enough to be part of the largest ever trial in ovarian malignancy involving 3,500 women and the completion of two new drug trials in Australia. As of September 2010 we are involved in 7 ongoing trials in ovarian cancer.
So why research?
Our current research into the immune system looks particularly promising. We have already identified an immune signal which might be a marker of response to anti- cancer drugs, and have an exciting joint project underway with Monash University which desperately needs more funding.