Highlights from the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance's 14th Annual Conference

The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance’s 14th Annual Conference, “Turning Promise into Action,” just wrapped up. What a conference it was! Hundreds of researchers, clinicians, survivors and caregivers attended the largest ovarian cancer-specific conference in the country. They learned about the latest in research, diagnosis, treatment and quality of life for women with ovarian cancer.

This year’s conference welcomed leading authorities in ovarian cancer research to help attendees better understand the disease. Dr. Michael Seiden, President and CEO of Fox Chase Cancer Center, set the stage for the conference when he discussed the big picture of ovarian cancer and his message of hope: “We’ve made a lot of progress in therapies without knowing anything about genetics,” Dr. Seiden noted. As genetic research now is advancing rapidly, Dr. Seiden predicted that new and improved therapies for ovarian cancer will emerge soon.

Several leading researchers spoke about new discoveries in ovarian cancer. Dr. Robert Burger of Fox Chase Cancer Center presented an overview of recent ovarian cancer clinical trials. He told attendees: “We need to extend progression free survival and improve quality of life for patients.” Dr. Jessica McAlpine of the University of British Columbia presented groundbreaking research on the origins of high grade serous ovarian cancer in the fallopian tubes. In her talk, she explained that this research “could have the greatest impact on prevention. We now know that removing the fallopian tubes can reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.”

Befitting a conference held in Washington, DC, several panels examined government programs that affect women with ovarian cancer. Two speakers on Sunday explored how the Affordable Care Act could benefit cancer patients, highlighting ways the act encourages innovation and ensures that every American can get coverage. On Monday, a panel of government and industry experts shed light on the drug approval process, revealing that only one in 10,000 compounds makes the journey from initial research to approval for consumer use.

Several conference sessions explored ways to cope with cancer, including music, movement and nutrition. N.E.D. the band performed live for our conference attendees, putting on quite the show! This unique rock band, made up of gynecologic oncologists from around the country, uses music to raise awareness of gynecologic cancers.

As the conference came to a close, keynote speaker Shannon Miller shared her story of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She told the audience about feeling “punched in the gut” when her doctors recommended chemotherapy, but approaching treatment with the “Olympic training” mentality that earned her multiple medals for gymnastics. The audience cheered when Shannon whipped off her wig, declaring: “There is no shame in ovarian cancer. There is no shame in losing my hair.”

The final day of the conference brought more than 100 advocates to Capitol Hill, including survivors and their supporters. Representatives Rosa DeLauro and Sandy Levin spoke to Advocacy Day participants before they set out for the Hill, urging our group to fight for ovarian cancer funding. Advocates from the Alliance visited 261 congressional offices in person on Tuesday, asking their legislators to provide level funding for the Department of Defense Ovarian Cancer Research Program, Johanna’s Law and the Ovarian Cancer Control Initiative. An additional 400 advocates emailed their legislators through our Virtual Advocacy Day, reinforcing the message that people around the country support women with ovarian cancer.

Next year’s conference will be held July 13-17 at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill. We hope to see you there!

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