Ovarian cancer research: making a difference

Miss Orla McNally
Miss Orla McNally, Director of Oncology & Dysplasia at the Women's
4 February 2014 | Cancer | Gynaecology | Research and clinical trials

Today is World Cancer Day and February is Ovarian Cancer month. Did you know that ovarian cancer is nearly always detected at an advanced stage?

This means the prognosis for most women diagnosed with the disease is usually quite poor. If ovarian cancer is detected at an early stage, however, the odds are very much stacked in favour of a good outcome. That’s why a test to diagnose ovarian cancer at an early stage is such a big focus of cancer research around the world.

According to Miss Orla McNally, the Director of Oncology & Dysplasia, research into new types of treatment and care are making a difference.

“Women are certainly living longer with ovarian cancer now compared to just a few years ago, and this is mostly because of the new lines of treatment available,” Miss McNally said.

“The other positive is that the quality of life experienced by women with ovarian cancer is much, much better. And this is largely because multidisciplinary teams, which you find in specialist centres, are able to provide care for the whole woman and help her manage the emotional and physical effects of an ovarian cancer diagnosis and ovarian cancer care.”

The Women's is recognised nationally and internationally when it comes to clinical trial research for ovarian cancer. The Women's is the largest contributor of patients to the Australian Ovarian Cancer Study, a national research program aimed at improving the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of ovarian cancer, and regularly participates as a member of national and international ovarian cancer research groups.

Miss McNally is a firm believer that every ovarian cancer patient has the right to be enrolled in a clinical trial. "When it's clinically appropriate, I think personally that every woman should be on a trial. The reality is that women who are on clinical trials, no matter what the trial is for, tend to have better outcomes. It's one of the reasons women should be encouraged to get their ovarian cancer treatment at a specialist centre such as the Women's or Peter Mac, Monash, the Mercy or Epworth."

The clinical trials being conducted at the Women's are comparing the effectiveness of different chemotherapy regimes and adding new drugs to existing chemotherapy regimes. The hospital has an excellent reputation with international pharmaceutical companies that work only with centres that have a high level of patient care, a track record in clinical research and a high volume of patients taking part in clinical trials.

The Women's is also studying the quality of life of women with ovarian cancer. These sorts of studies are only possible because of the multidisciplinary teams, which include mental health clinicians, dieticians, physiotherapists, social workers, oncologists, surgeons and highly-specialised cancer nurses.

Related information

Read more about the Women's Cancer Research Centre