How we fund research

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Ovarian Cancer Action was founded in 2005 to help transform the prospects for women by advancing ovarian cancer research in the UK. 

To date, we’ve funded a grand total of £12.3 million in medical research. Every penny we invest is spent according to a long-term research strategy, developed in close collaboration with experts in the field and guided by patients. This – alongside regular reviews of all our ongoing projects - ensures that the funds generously raised and donated by our supporters go towards talented scientists whose research will improve women’s lives. 

Learn more about our current approach to research and the people who ensure every generation of research we fund is high quality and will help make ovarian cancer survivable. 

Next generation research. A three-part approach.

We fund research that focuses on prevention, detection and treatment because improvements in each will transform how long and how well women will live. Right now, we’re funding scientists at the Ovarian Cancer Action Research Centre and the University of Oxford – their projects are part of the next generation of research that will:

  1. Prevent cancer
  2. Catch ovarian cancer early, and 
  3. Create new and effective treatments that can be personalised to the patient. 

Our guiding principles

The funding decisions we make are guided by a number of key principles. Our research must be:

  • Translational. The research will translate from the lab into real life, and make a difference to women with ovarian cancer
  • Innovative. We find and fund the people who are asking the key questions whose answers will improve survival 
  • Informed, evidence-based and current. We keep pace with the latest thinking in ovarian cancer research and treatment, guided by our HHMT International Forum on Ovarian Cancer

Choosing the research we fund

We bring together scientific and clinical experts to help us decide which research projects will have the most impact for ovarian cancer patients. When it comes to science and discoveries, collaboration is key. 

HHMT International Forum on Ovarian Cancer

Every four years Ovarian Cancer Action hosts the Helene Harris Memorial Trust (HHMT) International Forum on Ovarian Cancer. Each Forum brings together the world’s leading ovarian cancer experts to discuss and debate what we need to do to make ovarian cancer a survivable disease. These research priorities are published in the journal, Nature Reviews Cancer and inform our own research objectives.  You can download the Nature Reviews Cancer 2015 article and the lay summary.

The review process

Our applications are first sent to be reviewed by peer reviewers. Peer reviewers are usually expert scientists from anywhere in the world that have a similar research area to the applicant. A lot of care goes into picking three peer reviewers who will give good insight into the quality of the application, highlighting any weaknesses that OCA and the Scientific Advisory Board should be aware of.

The applications are also sent to our Ovarian Cancer Action Research Network. The research network is a nationwide, virtual group of people affected by ovarian cancer who use their experience of the disease to help shape our research. The network reviews the applications with a different lens compared to the peer reviewers. They are looking to see:

  • How the work could help women with ovarian cancer

  • Is it of priority to women affected by ovarian cancer 

  • How is the applicant planning to engage with these women


Scientific Advisory Board

Ovarian Cancer Action is a proud member of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC).  All AMRC members regularly assess the science they fund using a process called peer review to ensure their research is of the highest standard. Our reviews are carried out by our Scientific Advisory Board, a panel of international ovarian cancer experts who gives us impartial advice on the quality of the work we have funded and will fund in the future.  All of our reviewers and board members abide by our conflicts of interest policy before reviewing any applications for the charity.

At least 50% of the members of the panel must be present for there to be a quorum.

Click here for the full list of our Scientific Advisory Board members.

Ethical research

Research involving animals has played a role in some of the biggest medical advances of our time. When there are no feasible alternatives, we fund research using animals as an essential part of nailing ovarian cancer once and for all. As AMRC members we only fund research that complies with the law, and are committed to refining, reducing and replacing the use of animals in research wherever possible.  We are a signatory of the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research and are committed to transparency around the use of animals in research. We also refer applicants to The National Centre for Replacement, Refinement & Reduction of Animals in Research. Ovarian Cancer Action publicly support AMRC’s statement on the use of animals in research, which you can read here.

The Ovarian Cancer Action Research Strategy 2015-2020

Why we fund research

Ovarian Cancer Action was founded in 2005 to help transform the prospects for women by advancing ovarian cancer research in the UK. We are the UK’s ovarian cancer research charity and every penny we invest is spent according to a long-term research strategy, developed in close collaboration with experts in the field and guided by patients. This – alongside regular reviews of all our ongoing projects - ensures that the funds generously raised and donated by our supporters go towards talented scientists whose research will improve the women’s lives. 

What are our research priority areas?

OCA has for many years hosted and curated a conference that convenes thought leaders in the field to determine priorities for tackling the disease. The HHMT International Forum on Ovarian Cancer is the ‘Bilderberg conference’ of the cancer world: a closed meeting where yet to be published data can be shared and novel approaches discussed. This conference publishes a roadmap for the coming years of ovarian cancer research, and this directs our priority setting in our research strategy.

It is our ambition to fund research that has direct translational benefit to women with ovarian cancer. Given the complexities of the disease, and the number of histologies, it is our intention to focus our research efforts into two main categories, specifically high-grade serous ovarian cancer and cancer caused by inherited risk.

We have three main priorities and will support research in these areas:


1. Prevention/screening/early diagnosis

2. Treatment/surgery/clinical trials

3. Understanding how ovarian cancer develops and spreads 

How will we fund research?

We will fund research at:

-    the Ovarian Cancer Action Research Centre

-    UK universities through project grants

-    NHS Trusts

We are a member of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC), and all our research undergoes rigorous peer review. Our Scientific Advisory Board leads our peer review process as is renewed in line with AMRC guidelines on maximum term limits.


Who will we fund?

We will fund the top scientists in the field of ovarian cancer, as well as experts in fields where learnings can be translated to ovarian cancer – ie immunotherapy.


When will we review our research strategy?

The research strategy will be reviewed in 2021.