Our medical research programme funds ovarian cancer specific research across the whole of the UK. We fund innovative research that will benefit the largest proportion of women with ovarian cancer in the shortest timeframe. Our research strategy [PDF] sets out our specific priorities for advancing research to benefit women with ovarian cancer.
Only 35 per cent of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the UK survive their disease for ten years or more. Survival from ovarian cancer is much worse than for many other cancers, due to late diagnosis and a lack of effective treatment options. Research into new treatments lags significantly behind other cancer types. Funding is urgently required to support exciting new ideas, driving these to become the new treatments that are so desperately needed.
In a short period of time, we've developed a reputation as a funder of high quality research. We've already committed almost £1.5 million to 10 outstanding projects, selected through open competition.
Funding for ovarian cancer research
In recent years there's been a worrying decline in the UK’s spend on ovarian cancer research and this needs to be reversed. Public spend on ovarian cancer research has decreased by 23 per cent in eight years, from £12.9m in 2010/11 to £9.9m in 2018/19¹. Therefore, there is an urgent need for us to boost substantially the amount we spend on research.
This strategy highlights the areas of research that are vital to improve outcomes for patients. In seeking the greatest benefit from the limited resources available to us, our main priority is to develop new and more effective treatments. However, we work in partnership with other organisations to advance research into all priority areas for ovarian cancer research:
- Prevention: Reduce the incidence of ovarian cancer
- Improving early diagnosis: Ensure that ovarian cancer is diagnosed earlier and accurately
- Finding new treatments: Improve survival by developing new targeted treatments and optimising existing treatments
- Support for women: Provide a better quality of life for women living with ovarian cancer
- New targeted treatments and optimising existing treatments
Our primary objective is to accelerate research aimed at optimising and developing more effective and less toxic treatments for ovarian cancer, with a special focus on treatments that will improve overall survival. Surgery and chemotherapy are most widely used however very few new treatments have been developed in the last 15 years, or are currently in development.
Many important challenges need to be overcome to improve treatments for patients, such as:
- Identifying new drug targets within subtypes of ovarian cancer and developing new targeted treatments.
- Understanding why tumours develop resistance to therapies, developing strategies to prevent and overcome resistance.
- Developing new immunologic approaches to treating ovarian cancer.
- Understanding the effectiveness of existing drugs against different tumour subtypes.
- Understanding the effectiveness of specific drug combinations in subtypes.
- Researching to predict which patients will benefit from chemotherapy.
- Developing appropriate treatments for older patients.
- Identifying prognostic markers that indicate response to treatment.
- Developing robust surgical trials to validate new technologies and optimise treatments.
While these are some of the identified challenges, we'll consider support for any research of relevance to optimising or developing new treatments.
Five principles underpin our research strategy:
- access to funding for all UK researchers with an interest in ovarian cancer through open competition
- the importance of multidisciplinary collaboration between researchers to accelerate progress
- non-duplication of existing efforts
- clear focus on outcomes and impact
- independent peer review to determine and monitor all funding decisions
How we fund research
Translational research lies at the heart of our strategy. This is the approach whereby scientists and clinicians work together closely, sharing insight and ideas on what causes ovarian cancer and how best to treat it. We'll support high quality research and build capacity by supporting innovative projects and the development of early career researchers.
The key mechanism for delivering research funding will be through awarding translational project grants. In the future, we'll also provide support for early career researchers through translational research fellowships and support innovative ideas and new collaborations through network/consortium development grants.
Our funding schemes embrace multidisciplinary collaboration between researchers, which is vital to tackling the complex challenges behind the disease.
Support for research of the highest quality is ensured through our Scientific Advisory Board (SAB), which includes leading UK and international ovarian cancer specialists. The SAB provides expert advice to the Target Ovarian Cancer Board of Trustees on:
- development of the research strategy and grant giving programme
- identifying external reviewers for grant applications
- assessing external reviews and final recommendations on grant applications
- annual review of funded projects
In addition to best practice in external peer review, and in accordance with its commitment to ensure that the interests of women with ovarian cancer drive our work, our research advocates work alongside the SAB to reach funding decisions.
We're a member of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC). Our peer review process follows best-practice guidance as set out by the AMRC and our funding meets the eligibility criteria for the Charity Research Support Fund (CSRF).
Read our grant application guidelines, including forms and terms and conditions as well as details of the SAB and grant review. All applicants are given anonymised feedback from reviewers on notification of funding decisions. We're committed to disseminating widely the outcomes of our funded research in peer-reviewed journals, research meetings and through our website.
Research support and advocacy
We help accelerate progress towards new treatments for ovarian cancer further by advocating at a national level for the most favourable environment for research (increased funding, streamlined regulation and governance, approvals of new therapies etc) and by enabling women with ovarian cancer, where they wish, to take a more active role in the design of clinical trials and participation therein. Our clinical trials information and clinical trials search tool supports this intent. We support the work of the NCRI Gynaecological Group and the Ovary Sub-Group on an as-needed basis.
Our research strategy [PDF] was published in 2017 following a comprehensive review of the major challenges that need to be overcome to improve outcomes for patients. A wide range of expert opinions informed the review, including many senior scientists, clinicians and people affected by ovarian cancer. The strategy was refreshed in 2019.
We believe that there's an overwhelming case to increase the level of funding for ovarian cancer research. If a substantial increase in funding can be realised, rapid improvements to the treatment of ovarian cancer are possible, using new strategies that incorporate a more precise approach to treating disease.
- NCRI Cancer Research Database [online] [Accessed Dec 2020]