In the first days of 2020 we’ve had the incredible news that AI technology can read scans, potentially more accurately, than two trained clinicians. Incredible news and an astonishing potential step forward in early diagnosis.
This is the most recent development of what has been a huge shift in research in the last ten years. Technology, analytics, our understanding of genetics and our grasp on the multifactors that contribute to disease development has progressed and we are now able to find out information about cancer and process large amounts of data in a way that just wasn’t available to us ten years ago. In 2010 our research programmes were made up of multidisciplinary teams of clinicians, pathologists and lab technicians. Now, the very heart of our research team are biomathmaticians – people with the skills to take the immense amount of data collected and see patterns in it – and critically the points at which things start to change and there’s the opportunity to intervene. The only thing that has stayed the same about research is our ambition, to stop cancer before it starts.
Since 2010 The Eve Appeal has proudly funded research projects that have made a difference to the way we can predict the risk of gynaecological cancers, prevent them and diagnose them at an earlier stage. We reflect back on the last ten years of Eve research:
- UK FOCCS: in the early 2000’s Eve funded research at UCL, UK Familial Ovarian Cancer Screening Study began, which started a chain effect of further research leading us to understanding the BRCA gene alteration better than before and being able to use this information to enable more people to prevent ovarian and breast cancer. The results were published in 2017, and found that doing CA125 tests in women at high risk of ovarian cancer every four months may reduce the likelihood of being diagnosed with advanced stage ovarian cancer. For women who don’t want to undergo surgery this provides another option for being proactive about their cancer risk and enabling them to pick up any ovarian cancer early, when they have the best chance of surviving. UK FOCCS led to a pilot clinical trial within the NHS, the ALDO project, it is fantastic that UK FOCCS is already helping women throughout the UK to keep peace of mind and hopefully this will be expanded to help even more people.
- PROMISE: 2019 saw the end of a seven year, multinational Eve funded project, Predicting Risk of Ovarian Malignancies, Improved Screening and Early detection (PROMISE). PROMISE aims to evaluate the possibility of offering all women the opportunity to find out about their risk of developing ovarian cancer, by taking a holistic approach and looking at multiple factors linked to their risk and stratifying that risk. As well as the use of early detection and preventive options by women identified to be at increased risk. It is hoped that this approach can improve outcomes or prevent women from developing ovarian cancer itself.
- FORECEE: In 2015 FORECEE was launched and led from the Department of Women’s Cancer, UCL, thanks to Eve funding and large scale support from the EU Horizon 2020 fund. Over the last five years the Europe wide team has been working on developing one screening test to pick up four cancers that affect women, breast, womb, ovarian and cervical cancer. This research aims to make individualised risk predictions for cancer available to women for the first time, by looking for molecular markers in cervical cells. These cancers alone represent 47% of all cancers in women, and amongst them are cancers with a 5-year survival rate of just 40%. A staggering 516,000 new cases are diagnosed in the EU each year.
- Small Cell Ovarian Cancer: Thanks to support from Angela’s Fund and the amazing families of those closely affected by this very rare and aggressive cancer, The Eve Appeal has funded the world’s first Patient Registry and International Research Collaboration into this rare but devastating sub type of ovarian cancer that affects people at the average age of 25 years with no current treatment options. Research is becoming more and more global, and we are delighted to bring together experts from around the globe, to pull together expertise and knowledge into this understudied disease. By collected patient samples and having them freely available this work will allow researchers across the globe to look into small cell ovarian cancer.
Advances in research over the last decade has changed the experience for many people diagnosed with a gynaecological cancer, with better and kinder treatments and options now for some people at a high risk to prevent cancer. Sadly, the stages at which people are diagnosed hasn’t changed over the last ten years and we know that being diagnosed early is what really makes a difference to someone’s chance at survival. And so our work continues, and we hope by 2030 that we will be much closer to achieving our mission of a world where fewer people develop a gynae cancer and many more women survive their diagnosis.