Research into Ovarian Cancer

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Originally published in March 2003 icon

ROC - Research Into Ovarian Cancer

Ten years ago, the charity ROC (Research into Ovarian Cancer) was formed when a group of people whose lives had been touched by this dreadful disease, were approached for their support by the Ovarian Cancer Screening Unit, based at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London. The Unit was desperately in search of funding to keep their work going and asked if they could help. They could and they did. A partnership was formed, ROC was established and no-one could have envisaged the success it would bring in the next decade.

Initially the aim was to raise lmillion to fund the medical staff, laboratory and equipment as well as the computer technology needed for the administration of the unit. It was a staggering amount of money for a small, new charity to attempt to raise. However, on the back of excellent publicity, hard - often exhausting - work, and lots of enjoyment, people across the UK joined the fight. These were people whose lives had been touched in some way by the disease and wanted to strike back. Soon people were running marathons, doing swimathons, organising raffles, dances, keep fit classes - even walking to the South Pole -with the common desire to raise money for ROC.

From day one, ROC was extremely fortunate to have singer Michael Ball as its Patron. Michael’s huge profile has helped keep ROC in the spotlight - as have the several concerts he has organised over the years to raise thousands of pounds.

Blood Test

Michael Ball Fundraising
Singer Michael Ball helps
with fundraising

Early detection is fundamental to treating cancer. And ovarian cancer is a classic case in point.

The research programme at St. Bart’s focused on a blood test called CA125 being used in conjunction with ultrasound scanning.

With funding provided by ROC, 30,000 women were tested in the 1990’s. The study results enabled testing to be refined to achieve a high degree of accuracy. Most importantly, the studies also provided initial evidence that screening for the early detection of ovarian cancer could save lives.

As a result, a consortium led by the Medical Research Council agreed to give the OCSU 22 million to support an even bigger study which will continue until 2010. The results will form the basis for the NHS to make a decision about introducing ovarian cancer screening alongside the screening programmes already in place for cervical and breast cancers.

ROC has achieved much, yet it considers that its work is really only beginning. The greater challenge which lies ahead is in prevention.


In the past few years there have been major advances in our understanding of the causes of cancer in general and the specific molecular and genetic abnormalities which result in ovarian cancer. This means that exciting opportunities are there to prevent ovarian cancer from developing at all. It is already known that pregnancy and breast feeding reduce the frequency of the disease -although the reasons are still not entirely clear - and that there are some women with inherited genetic changes who have a very high risk of developing the cancer. The new insights into the underlying mechanisms of cancer suggest that it may now be possible for ROC to achieve its ultimate objective of preventing ovarian cancer from ever occurring.

Steve Redgrave Fundraising
Five times Olympic Champion Steve
Redgrave helps with fundraising

As well as encouraging women to change their lifestyle - to exercise more and switch to a diet high in vegetables, fruit and fish - prevention requires more intensive research conducted by scientists and doctors, using new and powerful technology. It will be hugely costly but ROC - as ever - is ready to face the challenge with the very gratefully received and generous financial support of anyone who can help.

If you would like more information or would like to make a donation, the contact details are as follows:

ROC (Research into Ovarian Cancer)
P0 Box 3872
SW15 1XR,

Tel: 020 8789 1406; E-mail: [email protected]; Website:

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