BriTROC ovarian cancer initiative an exemplar of UK research strengths and of things to come

Yesterday Ovarian Cancer Action announced funding of a new research collaboration – ‘BriTROC’ – aimed at developing ‘a high-quality nationwide tissue and bio specimen bank.’  The bank will enable research looking at the molecular characteristics of tumours that recur despite treatment — an important area of unmet need in the field.

All the above is from the press release.  But what you should also know is that, apart from having the best name in the business, BriTROC is an exemplar of the UK’s research strengths and current trends.  Briefly, these include:

  • The ever-increasing focus on collaboration (this initiative involves eight centres across the UK and will, I am sure, involve international ones in time)
  • The emphasis on ‘translational’ research and the unique role and importance of the NHS in providing a sustaining environment for this sort of near-clinic(al) work.
  • The recognition of the importance of ‘bio-banks’ and data-linkage as the infrastructure of the future.
  • The importance of medical research charities in kick-starting these initiatives with funding.  Cancer Research UK are also involved in this particular one.

I think BriTROC has received some coverage including a piece on BBC One.  But most of the media reports I have seen come from Scotland where two of the participating sites are based – one in Edinburgh, the other in Glasgow.  Perhaps they just get collaboration better than those of us south of the border.

The really fascinating and quite complex challenge BriTROC will face is in terms of its engagement with, and dependence on the participation of, women suffering from ovarian cancer, given that the whole idea and success of the ‘bank’ depends on recurrent tissue collection from them. You have to remember that not only is this one of the most difficult cancers to treat and gruelling to put it mildly for those women undergoing treatment, but continues to have one of the poorest survival rates.

But there are several things already batting in BriTROC’s favour.  The first is the fact that women with ovarian cancer are one of the most highly motivated and mobilised patient populations I have come across when it comes to research.  The second is that the clinicians and academics involved, some of whom I have worked with, are highly attuned to the sensitives in this area and to the need to develop a ‘patient-centred’ approach to the work.

Who knows, BriTROC may become an exemplar for patient engagement and involvement as well.

PS: It is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month coming up in March = see here for more details including information on the other charities in the field: Target Ovarian Cancer, Ovacome and ‘The Eve Appeal.’ Good to see them all working together.

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