Past research into ovarian cancer

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Our milestones

Our scientists have made vital contributions to finding new and better ways to treat, diagnose and prevent ovarian cancer. Below are a few of our most important discoveries.

2007 – Scientists working on a large study we support, the Million Women Study, reveal important discoveries about how hormone treatments (including HRT and the Pill) affect women’s risk of developing ovarian cancer. These results help women around the world make more informed decisions about their health. 

1990s – Our scientists play a vital role in the discovery of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Faults in these genes raise the risk of ovarian cancer and other cancer types, too. This knowledge has led to the development of a new type of targeted treatment, PARP inhibitors.  

2003 – We discover a new gene linked to ovarian (and breast) cancer, which furthers understanding of how and why these cancers develop. This proves to be the ‘missing link’ between types of these cancers that can be passed through families and those that aren’t.

2011 – Following the discovery of BRC1 and BRCA2, our scientists find that inherited faults in another gene, RAD51D , also lead to a number of women developing ovarian cancer. These women might also benefit from PARP inhibitors. 

2015 – Our scientists reveal a link between the amount of genetic chaos in ovarian cancers and women's outlook. Understanding the genetic landscape of ovarian cancers could lead to ways to stop them becoming resitant to treatments. 

1982 – We discover and then develop carboplatin, one of the most successful cancer drugs ever developed. This chemotherapy is the current gold standard treatment for ovarian cancer, significantly improving survival and quality of life for women with this disease.

1989 – Our scientists develop the Calvert formula, a way of calculating the correct dose of carboplatin so that every patient gets the amount that’s right for them.

2008 – We launch the first UK trial of a family of drugs called PARP inhibitors. This trial came about following research carried out by our scientists as far back as 1982. Over the years, we identify a way to exploit genetic weaknesses in cancer cells with faulty genes that prevent them from fixing their DNA properly (for example faulty BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes). Further work by our scientists led to the discovery and development of a new family of drugs, called PARP inhibitors, which target these vulnerabilities. This treatment is now helping women with some types of ovarian cancer live longer.

2016 – A study we fund shows that measuring levels of a faulty version of a gene called p53 in a blood test could give doctors a clearer picture of whether ovarian cancer is responding to treatment, helping get the right treatment to patients at the right time.

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