Professor Iain McNeish is the professor of gynaecological oncology at the Institute of Cancer Sciences at the University of Glasgow. He is working on the British Translational Research Ovarian Cancer Collaborative (BriTROC) project, a pioneering study into why ovarian cancer keeps coming back.
Did you always want to be a scientist?
I always wanted to be a doctor – apparently I announced this to anyone who would listen when I was about three years old. I always thought that research would feature heavily in my career.
I had a brief wobble when I was at medical school and thought about becoming a conductor (orchestra rather than bus), but reality and common sense prevailed.
What made you want to research ovarian cancer?
I undertook my PhD qualification as soon as I realised that I was interested in researching cancer. My project involved trying to develop new ways to treat ovarian cancer. At that point, I was hooked – I found it fascinating then and I still do twenty years later.
What is BriTROC?
BriTROC is a project aiming to discover why ovarian cancer comes back, and to stop it from coming back.
Currently one of the most effective treatments for ovarian cancer is platinum-based chemotherapy, but 70% of women treated with this therapy develop resistance to it, and their cancer comes back.
We desperately need to understand why ovarian cancer recurs in so many women and why the treatments stop working.
Without this understanding women will continue to suffer unnecessarily and ovarian cancer will remain the UK's most deadly gynaecological disease.
What keeps you motivated on a hard day?
I am very fortunate in that effectively I have two jobs – I look after women with ovarian cancer, and I do research into ovarian cancer as well.
So there are two kinds of hard days – in clinic, telling a woman that her cancer has come back is one of the most difficult things ever, for all the reasons that you can imagine. What keeps me going is knowing that there are still lots of things we can do to help women with ovarian cancer that comes back and that we are working really hard to develop better treatments.
A bad day in the lab is one where a grant gets rejected or an experiment doesn’t work, again. At that point, you just grit your teeth and keep trying. Knowing that our research will help women is always a very powerful motivator.
What do you dream of achieving?
I want to develop a new treatment for ovarian cancer that revolutionises the way we treat women all over the world.