Ovarian cancer – too many lives cut short
By Scot Ebbinghaus, vice president, clinical research, MSD Research Laboratories
May 1, 2019
Sixty years ago, in 1958, Dr. Rosalind Franklin died following a two-year fight with ovarian cancer. She was only 37 years old. Her pioneering research provided the key to deciphering the structure and function of DNA – and ultimately the blueprint for life.
In 1962 her collaborators, James Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins, were awarded the Nobel Prize for their “discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material.” Dr. Franklin’s untimely death denied her the acclaim of this prestigious scientific award (the Nobel Committee does not award the prize posthumously), but her role in this fundamental discovery has been well-documented and is now widely recognized.
Dr. Franklin’s story of a life cut short by ovarian cancer remains all too common. Even today, advanced ovarian cancer remains one of the most difficult cancers to treat. But there remains a reason for optimism. The pace of change in cancer treatment has increased dramatically in recent years. Advances in research – many of which may be traced back to Dr. Franklin’s work – have given us a deeper understanding of how to target the disease, paving the way for new developments. Specific to ovarian cancer, recent clinical research has shown promise for women with advanced stages of the disease.
- Ovarian cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers among women in the world. Globally, it is estimated that 295,000 new cases of ovarian cancer were diagnosed in 2018, which resulted in approximately 185,000 deaths
- Patients with ovarian cancer may have nonspecific signs and symptoms in the early stages of the disease, but the majority of patients are diagnosed in the late stages.
At MSD, we are focused on translating breakthrough science into oncology therapeutics that have the greatest potential for improving long-term disease control and survival for patients, including those with ovarian cancer. We recognize that no two patients or cancers are the same, and multiple approaches – therapeutic regimens and mechanisms of action – will be needed to outpace this disease. That’s why we have worked rigorously to expand and diversify our own internal research programs.
There is still work to be done, but we believe strongly in our potential to transform the way all cancers are treated. And, we are constantly inspired to work harder by stories like Dr. Rosalind Franklin’s.