World Ovarian Cancer Day: Research and Public Education at TSJCI
Posted on: 06 May 2022
Today, Sunday 8th May is World Ovarian Cancer Day, a global day to raise awareness of the disease, and an opportunity to highlight the work of the Trinity St James’ Cancer Institute (TSJCI) in this area of research and education.
Ovarian cancer is a term used to describe malignant disease that develops to form a tumour involving either the ovary, fallopian tubes or peritoneum. Approximately 400 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year in Ireland which has one of the highest death rates from the disease in Europe, with almost 300 women dying every year.
Ovarian cancer is the 4th leading cause of cancer death in women in this country, after lung, breast, and colorectal cancer.
At the Trinity St James’s Cancer Institute (TSJCI, the only Cancer Centre in Ireland accredited by the Organisation of European Cancer Institutes) ovarian cancer research primarily focuses on improving the treatment and management of the disease by studying diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers, which provide information to enable the diagnosis of and treatment for the disease. There is currently no screening for ovarian cancer, so understanding its behaviour through research is vital.
Research at TSJCI has shown the importance of specific components of the blood stream which assist the cancer cells to avoid the immune system and in turn, spread to other parts of the body. Advancing technology allows the isolation of tumour cells directly from the blood and also DNA from those cells that are then shed into the circulation system. The TSJCI team focus on extracting information from the cells to determine how a patient will respond to treatment.
Combining research efforts and expertise is crucial to advance cancer research, and the team at TSJCI join with other scientists both at home and globally to expand their research and achieve better outcomes and treatments for ovarian cancer patients. Collaborations such as the HEA North South Initiative and the All-Ireland Cancer Liquid Biopsies Consortium (CLuB) emerging hub of excellence are important initiatives for the Institute.
EARLY DIAGNOSIS AND B.E.A.T
Research shows that the majority of ovarian cancer cases present late due to vague symptoms. Early diagnosis can significantly improve survival. 83% of patients diagnosed with stage one ovarian cancer are alive 5 years after diagnosis whereas only 16% of patients diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer are alive 5 years after diagnosis.
The key message for this year’s world ovarian cancer day campaign is focussed on creating awareness of those symptoms with the BEAT acronym (see image below). Recent research carried out by Breakthrough Cancer Research on behalf of The Irish Network of Gynaecological Oncology (INGO) found 4 out of 5 women in Ireland are not confident in recognising a symptom of ovarian cancer.
Education is a key component of the work of Dr Sharon O’Toole (pictured), Coordinator of the World Ovarian Cancer Day campaign at the INGO and Senior Research Fellow at TSJCI. INGO is a voluntary group and consists of thirty of Ireland’s foremost gynaecological cancer campaigners, researchers, and patient advocates. The aim of the group is to raise awareness of gynaecological cancers across the island of Ireland.
Sharon describes the efforts underway to educate women to recognise the symptoms of this deadly cancer:
Thirty of Ireland’s foremost gynaecological cancer campaigners, researchers and patient advocates have come together to highlight BEAT – an acronym summarising the symptoms of ovarian cancer. Because there is no screening test for ovarian cancer, women must all be more symptom aware. The clear message is that if youexperience any of the BEAT symptoms for three weeks or more, you should contact your GP.
Trinity St James’ Cancer Institute:
Irish Society of Gynaecological Oncology: www.isgo.ie
Irish Network of Gynaecological Oncology (INGO): www.isgo.ie/irish-network-for-gynaecological-oncology/