A Bit About OVCARE:  Our Story

by David Huntsman, Dianne Miller and Blake Gilks
Co-Founders of OVCARE

How it all started.
We’d like to share with you a bit of the history of the Ovarian Cancer Research Program – OVCARE. OVCARE was born in the VGH cafeteria just before Christmas 2000 and literally started on the back of a napkin.  The three of us sat down to discuss what we wanted an ovarian cancer research program and ovarian cancer research team to look like.  Looking back, it was great to have the contrasting perspectives of a geneticist, gynaecologic oncologist and pathologist.  Together, we shared a vision for a program that would be clinically relevant to patients, not in the distant future, but immediately.  Our vision was to have a multidisciplinary team that would include everyone from researchers to pathologists, geneticists, epidemiologists, gynaecologic surgeons, and span multiple institutions – this part was essential.  The BC Cancer Agency has the greatest archive of clinical ovarian cancer data in North America, and the Vancouver General Hospital, where most surgical procedures take place, has the largest archive of tumour material.  We realized that if we built a team that combined both institutions, we would be able to make unique contributions to our understanding of ovarian cancer.

BC Cancer Foundation and VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation came together for the first time to support a major research program.
OVCARE was then developed as an initiative between the BC Cancer Agency, UBC and the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, funded through donations to the BC Cancer Foundation and VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation.  OVCARE marked the first time these organizations came together to support a major research program, and this collaboration has paid off in spades. 

OVCARE from modest beginnings to becoming a leader in ovarian cancer research.
With UBC, BC Cancer Agency and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute as partners, we set up some research platforms like our tumour bank of archives and the Cheryl Brown Outcomes Unit.   We made these resources available to anybody interested in ovarian cancer and created only one rule:  all data must be shared with the team.   Looking back now, we realize how overly modest our expectations for success were. We had no idea how powerful and effective a team-oriented approach to a complex problem could be.   OVCARE has grown from an idea into an internationally recognized team.   We have exceeded all of our expectations of the program’s success.  We believe this is because of the collaborative spirit that exists within our team and the firm partnership we have established with our patients and the BC Cancer Foundation and VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation. 

OVCARE looking to the future.
Our goal is to increase the scope of our discoveries and bring our discoveries into the clinic – to improve the lives of women with ovarian cancer or those who are at risk.   Moving forward, our plan includes the reconstitution of the research platforms that made us successful to begin with, such as our tumour bank, the Cheryl Brown Outcomes unit and the development of new research cores in genomics, clinical trials and knowledge transfer.  In addition, we have initiated unique research projects such as our ovarian cancer prevention educational campaign that we believe should decrease the incidence of this cancer by up to 50% and our eight-year initiative on clear cell carcinomas of the ovary that includes a plan to develop new drugs and clinical trials.   We’re on an incredible upward trajectory, and this would not have been possible without philanthropic support that allows for translational research to occur.

To learn more about our research projects, please visit our Research page.