According to 74 per cent of Canadians surveyed, diseases with a high mortality rate should be prioritized when making research funding decisions.
Unfortunately, this view on how research investments should be made conflicts with reality. A look at the federal government's investments in research shows that diseases such as breast cancer and prostate cancer have received far more funding than ovarian cancer, which is the most fatal women's cancer.
Women with ovarian cancer and their families deserve to benefit from treatment advances and higher survival rates seen in other disease areas. And this is only possible with further investment.
In Canada, funding shortfalls have prevented scientific progress against ovarian cancer. The disease continues to claim the lives of more than half the women it affects within five years of diagnosis. A statistic that hasn't improved in half a century.
This disease is often overlooked and under diagnosed, because it's notoriously difficult to detect. When I first heard about it, I knew I had to do something. So for the last 20 years, I have been working alongside a tireless community of survivors, thrivers, as well as their soulmates and legacies.
This year we came closer than ever to securing government support of research funding, when the Standing Committee on Finance recommended that steps be taken to "invest in ovarian cancer research to advance a personalized medicine platform for this cancer and to reduce the five-year mortality rate associated with it."
However, despite historic investments in scientific research, Budget 2018 did not earmark any funds to specifically address ovarian cancer. So there is no guarantee that this issue will be granted priority.
There is still a long way to go if women with ovarian cancer are to experience meaningful improvements in outcomes.
Meanwhile, donations to Ovarian Cancer Canada, the only national charity dedicated to confronting this disease, have enabled over $6 million in research contributions to date. There is still a long way to go if women with ovarian cancer are to experience meaningful improvements in outcomes.
Canadian scientists focused on ovarian cancer have been on the leading edge of many recent discoveries in ovarian cancer research. For instance, much of what we know about the heterogeneous nature of ovarian cancer, that it encompasses a variety of sub-types that respond differently to treatment, is because of research conducted here in Canada.
Beyond earning significant international attention, our scientists are viewed collectively as some of the most collaborative and engaged ovarian cancer researchers in the world. Accordingly, they need opportunities to work on large-scale projects, which show potential to make the greatest impact in a relatively short span of time. With this support, they would be able to convene on the most promising new treatments to expedite testing and move forward with clinical trials. In other words, speeding discoveries from bench to bedside.
Government can make these opportunities available, and doing so would mean helping women with ovarian cancer live longer and better lives. An immediate and additional investment of $10 million in federal funding would allow Canadian scientists to improve research models, prioritize development of new treatments and advance clinical trials.
People who have been affected by ovarian cancer are using their voices to speak out and save lives on World Ovarian Cancer Day this May 8. Together with World Ovarian Cancer Coalition, Ovarian Cancer Canada is rallying concerned citizens to raise awareness for the women they love.
Here at home, we cannot afford to let ovarian cancer fall through the cracks. Canadians are continuing the quest to engage government in this overlooked and underfunded women's health issue.
Will you invest just five minutes of your time to help the women and families affected by ovarian cancer? Make your voice heard at ovariancanada.org.