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Posted by Dr Simon Newman, Director of Research on Tuesday 22 December 2015

Since joining Target Ovarian Cancer one of my key goals has been to ensure we build close relationships with the researchers we fund and do everything possible to ensure their research makes an impact even after we finish funding. With a recent visit to our office from Dr Anne Lanceley, whose research we funded, I was reminded of the impressive impact we’re already seeing from our research.

Implementing research findings

When I was a researcher even the most enlightened funding bodies would, at best, just ask for an end of grant report from which you received very little feedback and there was no concept of working together to take the research to the next stage or implement its findings. I’m very proud to therefore be able to report on what we’ve already achieved at Target Ovarian Cancer:

  • In East Anglia the findings of the GTEOC trial are already being implemented in rolling out more extensive BRCA testing whilst maintaining the oversight of expert genetic services. We are still working closely with Dr Marc Tischkowitz to maximise the impact of this landmark trial across the UK.
  • In Oxford due to the rapid progress Professor Ahmed Ahmed’s early stage drug discovery research is making we’ve agreed to extend our involvement in his vital research for an additional ten months.

Symptoms Benefit Study

Which brings me finally to the amazing Symptoms Benefit Study. Without Target Ovarian Cancer funding the UK quite simply would not have been able to take part in this ground-breaking international observational cohort study which is seeking new ways to assess the holistic benefits, if any, of chemotherapy for women with advanced ovarian cancer.

Dr Anne Lanceley, the UK lead for the study, came to our office to share the study’s latest findings and see how we can work together to ensure the wealth of data being generated can make a real impact and benefit women living with ovarian cancer. The study was coordinated, and part funded by, University College London (UCL), they opened 26 study sites across the UK and recruited 174 women. Among the issues being addressed by the study are:

  • How to predict which patients may respond best to chemotherapy in the advanced setting
  • Understand which symptoms/side effects are most concerning to the patient rather than focus on those assumed to be by clinicians
  • How to minimise unnecessary treatment side effects and hospital stays
  • Provide information on when and how may be the best time to stop treatment
  • Validate the Measure of Ovarian Cancer Symptoms and Treatment concerns (MOST-OSI) tool to measure symptoms benefit in clinical trials and generally for patients on treatment

Improving quality of life

Many standard treatments and new drugs unfortunately only delay the time before the cancer comes back (Progression Free Survival [PFS]), and it is crucial clinicians have, and use, tools in clinical trials and their day-to-day practice that assess meaningfully whether a drug treatment which improves PFS really does improve the quality of life.

The Symptoms Benefit study has now shown MOST-OSI to potentially be the best tool available for ovarian cancer trials to get a true measure of the benefit of a new treatment in terms of symptom relief vs side effects of the treatment. 

Going forward Target Ovarian Cancer will work with the Symptoms Benefit team to push for the use of MOST-OSI in clinical trials and recognition of this unique measure by NICE and the CDF. In the longer term we hope ours and others’ investment in research will lead to treatments which not only score highly on quality of life measures but make real improvements in overall survival for ovarian cancer.

Dr Simon NewmanDr Simon Newman, Director of Research