Question asked by: 
Hilary
Date asked: 
Sep 2016

I have read a lot about ovarian cancer, but the one area I don't feel gets enough attention is research into the obvious stuff, to either give credibility or to reject a myth.  

For example root ginger is said to impact ovarian cancer, but does it?  No effort is being made into research on this compared to Avastin or the parp inhibitors, and yet it could prove a cheap and easy remedy! Of course it could also be a red herring, but until funding is made available for conclusive research, we'll not know. I feel this is an area where your charity could make a significant impact!

What research is there into alternative, natural remedies?
Alternative remedy research does happen and any with potential are likely to have been researched further and assessed in proper clinical trials
Response by Dr Simon Newman

Our research programme has already committed over £600,000 focussed on accelerating the discovery of new life extending treatments and improving the quality of life for women with ovarian cancer. We do this by funding drug discovery, training the researchers of the future, campaigning for greater clinical trials participation and developing supportive and palliative care research. We have an independent Scientific Advisory Board, which in conjunction with expert international review and meaningful lay input from our Research Advocates, makes recommendations to our Trustees on which projects we should support. You can read about our current research programmes here

With regard to other wider research into potential natural / alternative remedies, such as root ginger on ovarian cancer, this type of research does indeed happen. Some of the mainstay chemotherapy drugs have a basis in plant extracts, for example as part of a programme testing thousands of plant extracts a compound from Yew tree bark was identified as an anti-cancer compound, this went on to be the drug paclitaxel.  Over the last half century the pharmaceutical industry has tested millions of potential drugs derived from plants, microbes and animals.  Indeed another drug sometimes used in ovarian cancer, trabectedin, was first found by testing extracts from a Sea Squirt!


Most of the natural extracts tested showed no activity even in simplistic laboratory models of cancer and even those that showed activity at this early stage very few went on to show safe anti-cancer activity in the clinic and benefit patients.  Ginger has shown some sort of potential anti-cancer activity in a simple laboratory experiment but this has not stood up to further scrutiny.  Whilst most natural / alternative remedies have no harmful effects and can even improve one’s sense of wellbeing it should be noted in some circumstances some potential alternative remedies may interfere with proven standard chemotherapy.  You should always inform your doctor what supplements / remedies you are taking.


In conclusion, it would never be possible to provide a simple yes / no answer to all the various stories on the internet but if any did have potential it is likely they would have already been identified and researched further and been assessed in proper clinical trials. It is sometimes said the pharmaceutical industry is not interested in natural remedies as they are hard to patent and make money from, this is not true and additionally the scientific reputation and benefit to patients of discovering a major step forward in cancer therapy continually drives the process at looking at all avenues for potential new drugs. You can read more about how clinical trials work and the different stages here.