Every 5 hours, we lose someone we love to ovarian cancer in Canada. Ovarian cancer is the most fatal women’s cancer and sadly, one in two diagnosed do not live to see another five years. Despite this, investment in ovarian cancer research has lagged well behind that of other cancers, such as prostate and breast cancer, both of which have much better treatment outcomes and survival rates.
With very few exceptions, available treatments have not changed significantly since the 1990s. Patients are treated with the same methods, surgery and chemotherapy, and unfortunately these methods are not successful in most patients. It is not surprising that outcomes for ovarian cancer have not improved much in 50 years.
In 2019, the Canadian government took the bold step of entrusting Ovarian Cancer Canada with a $10 million investment for ovarian cancer research to improve outcomes. And while $10 million sounds like a relatively small investment, it may have changed the trajectory of ovarian cancer research efforts, and ultimately, change the lives of thousands of women in Canada and millions more around the world.
With the federal investment of $10 million, Ovarian Cancer Canada worked closely with the ovarian cancer research community to re-imagine the traditional approach to medical research. We used the funding to support research that benefits and involves the whole ovarian cancer research eco-system (scientists, clinicians, patients, partner organizations) and was aligned to the collective goals of researchers, rather than focusing on individual research pursuits. We have made decisions together with the research community, funding research projects that show early promise and which would ultimately benefit patients most. By working together, researchers have continuously built on one another’s progress, making advancements quicker and more efficiently.
We have made great progress in the first three years of this five-year initiative through collaborative efforts with the research and patient communities, and our research has led to new discoveries that will help people with ovarian cancer live longer and better. From exploring how to use a vaccine to trigger the body’s own immune system to fight the cancer, to answering the question of how we can improve prevention, treatment, and prognosis for Indigenous and other marginalized and at-risk populations, to designing new treatment strategies and bringing forward new clinical trials, the Canadian ovarian cancer research community is pushing the boundaries of how research is conducted, and what is possible to achieve on an accelerated timeframe.
The momentum we’ve created in ovarian cancer research is unlocking new insights that can change the face of this highly fatal disease, offering women new treatment options and creating international recognition for Canada as a leader in pioneering transformative research and discoveries.
But now we need your help.
The initial $10 million investment has been fully vested, and it is now time to ask what comes next. We can’t afford to stop the progress that has been made in understanding this disease. Through Ovarian Cancer Canada’s research initiative and Canada’s network of ovarian cancer researchers, we have built a pipeline of discovery which has the potential to address thousands of research questions, including how to better prevent, diagnose, and treat ovarian cancer, and how to better support women living with the disease. Ovarian cancer research is a priority that cannot be ignored. After decades without real change, improved outcomes are possible – finally.
Women across Canada are depending on us to keep this research moving forward. They are depending on you as well. Join us in this fight and help us change the lives of thousands of women in Canada and millions more around the world.
This op-ed first appeared on The Hill Times on February 6, 2023.
You can make change a reality. Please support Ovarian Cancer Canada by giving generously. Your gift helps people living with ovarian cancer, and others at risk live fuller, better, longer lives.