Last Wednesday afternoon saw the final meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Ovarian Cancer before the general election. We wanted to make the most of our last chance to brief parliamentarians before the election and managed to cover the important issues of clinical trials and genetic testing, as well as discussing the future of the Be Clear on Cancer campaign.
Our chair Sharon Hodgson MP was unable to join us for the start of the meeting, but Russell Brown MP kindly stepped into the role of chair and did an excellent job of ensuring we ran to time – no mean feat when you have five different speakers. We were also joined by Baroness Thomas of Winchester, Mark Durkan MP, Fiona Mactaggart MP and Sharon was able to join us for the final part of the meeting.
The first part of the meeting addressed the issue of clinical trials. Ros Glasspool, a Consultant Medical Oncologist, talked us through what’s involved in getting a trial off the ground. Many attendees were both surprised and concerned to learn of how long it can take from the initial proposal to a trial launching.
Added to this is the wide regional variation in trials participation. Our own Dr Simon Newman shared Target Ovarian Cancer's analysis that revealed worrying variations across different regions, showing that more needs to be done to ensure every woman with ovarian cancer has the opportunity to access a clinical trial.
The second part of the meeting was concerned with BRCA testing. Consultant Gynaecological Oncologist Ranjit Manchanda talked us through work he’s undertaken, funded by The Eve Appeal, looking at screening in the Jewish population where there’s a higher chance of people having the BRCA gene mutation.
Ovarian Cancer Action talked more specifically about the need for genetic testing to be offered to women with ovarian cancer while Dr Simon Newman described a piece of research being funded by Target Ovarian Cancer looking at how best to support women during genetic testing and the role of counselling.
Be Clear on Cancer
Finally, there was time for a quick discussion on the Be Clear on Cancer campaign. At the last meeting it had seemed the future was uncertain for the ovarian cancer campaign. Since then we’ve had publication of the interim findings. They show that, while the campaign may not have performed as well as we had hoped in terms of increased diagnosis, it had exceeded expectations in terms of raising awareness among its target audience of women over 50. Sharon said it was important members kept the pressure on Public Health England to continue with the campaign and that, following a meeting with NHS England, she felt more hopeful than after the previous APPG meeting.
The meeting closed with Russell thanking everyone for their support. Annwen Jones, Chief Executive of Target Ovarian Cancer, in turn thanked the MPs and peers present for all their support during this parliament. The meeting concluded a successful first five years for the APPG on Ovarian Cancer and we look forward to a further five years in the next parliament.