Welcome to the September Issue of Teal Times.

In August, I appeared before a public hearing of the Senate Inquiry into Funding for Research into Cancers with Low Survival Rates. With me was Jill Emberson, an ABC journalist living with ovarian cancer.

Together we spoke to the Senate Committee about the reality of ovarian cancer, the dramatic and life-changing impact it has upon those it affects and the projects Ovarian Cancer Australia wants to see action on to improve outcomes for those diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

I brought to the Senate Committee a blueprint for unifying ovarian cancer research in Australia, in the form of the Ovarian Cancer Australia National Action Plan. This outlines several Ovarian Cancer Australia projects; some that require funding, and others that we have initiated independently or collaboratively in order to help save women’s lives and ensure that no woman with ovarian cancer walks alone.

Highlights of the National Action Plan include:

  • The need for a National Clinical Quality Registry, which would collect data from women with ovarian cancer and analyse it to give important insights into how different treatment centres are performing against clinical benchmarks and how the performance can be improved.
  • Traceback, a project that could prevent 800 ovarian cancers and 2,500 breast cancers by identifying women who have had ovarian cancer but have not been tested for the BRCA gene mutation.
  • The Australian Ovarian Cancer Study, which is a collaboration between the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, the University of Melbourne, the Queensland Institute of Medical Research and Westmead Hospital which calls upon data from more than 2500 women with ovarian cancer and uses this data to identify environmental and genetic risk factors for ovarian cancer.

We know that ovarian cancer is not just one disease; it has multiple subtypes, each with different cellular appearances, molecular characteristics and outcomes. It is therefore imperative that the detection, treatment and research of ovarian cancer reflects this diversity. The Ovarian Cancer Alliance for Signal-Seeking Research, better known as OASIS, has been created to improve treatments for ovarian cancer by optimising treatments for each subtype. This initiative is an initiative of ANZGOG, the Australia New Zealand Gynaecologic Oncology Group. It also involves Ovarian Cancer Australia and the Australian Ovarian Cancer Study.

At Ovarian Cancer Australia we want all Australians to know the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer and understand the significance of family history in detecting the disease. We are hoping the Select Inquiry will lead to a more coordinated approach to research and, consequently, better outcomes for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

I want to thank Jill Emberson for attending the hearing with me, for her eloquence and candour in sharing her story, and for representing the women affected by this insidious disease.