2011.6.22 Ovarian Cancer Survivor Testifies in Support of DoD Research Program



June 22, 2011

Ovarian Cancer Survivor Testifies in Support of DoD Research Program

Washington, DC—Ovarian cancer survivor Susan Leighton testified today before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense as a representative of the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance. In her remarks, she asked the Senate to provide flat funding of $20 million for the Department of Defense Ovarian Cancer Research Program in fiscal year 2012. The text of Ms. Leighton’s testimony is included below:

“Good morning, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Vice Chair and Members of the Subcommittee. I am honored to appear before you in support of the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance’s request of $20 million for the Department of Defense Ovarian Cancer Research Program, which I will henceforth refer to as the OCRP.  My name is Susan Leighton. I am from Huntsville, Alabama, where my husband and I settled after his retirement from the United States Army as a Chief Warrant Officer, Three.

“In the summer of 1997, at the age of 48, I was diagnosed with stage IIIC ovarian cancer.  Women diagnosed in later stages, like me, have only a 20% chance of surviving five years. In an instant, I went from preparing to take my daughter to college to wondering whether I would see her graduate.

“I was treated at the University of Alabama. My treatment is paid for by my husband’s military health plan. I was fortunate to enter treatment the year after two chemotherapeutic agents had been approved for use as first line treatment of ovarian cancer. The combination of surgery and those two agents put me into remission. With the exception of one recurrence, I have remained with no evidence of disease. The research that led to the discovery of those two agents saved my life. I saw my daughter graduate from Auburn University, begin a great career and walk down the aisle to marry. Unfortunately, the majority of women diagnosed do not have this fairy tale ending.

“Ovarian cancer is a heterogeneous disease. Many women do not respond to the type of chemotherapy that helped me. The survival rate for this disease has remained relatively stable; fewer than 50% of the approximately 21,000 women diagnosed each year will be alive in five years. The solution to improving these survival rates is simple: research.

“Being one of a handful of long-term survivors, I feel a responsibility to speak for other ovarian cancer patients. I have participated as a consumer reviewer on the OCRP panels for two years, bringing the patient’s perspective to the table. As a reviewer, I help decide which research will benefit women diagnosed with ovarian cancer and those at risk of developing it in the future. I have seen the focus move toward studying cellular pathways of cancer. We are on the precipice of understanding how ovarian cancer develops, grows and spreads—and ultimately eliminating it. I recently returned from the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, where I heard about studies of PARP inhibitors and anti-angiogenesis agents, which are showing promising results for ovarian cancer survivors. Many of those studies were funded by grants from the OCRP.

“We are very aware of the current economic climate, and understand the constraints you face when determining where best to allocate funds. For that reason, we are asking for flat funding of the OCRP in fiscal year 2012.

“My cancer support group in Alabama has a memorial statue in our Garden of Life and Remembrance. I have watched over the years as we added name after name to the statue. The young man who engraves those names each year refuses to take payment, telling us that the only payment he wants is a call telling him that we have no new names to add.  The only way this will happen is by eliminating ovarian cancer. The situation in Alabama is no different than that in Hawaii, Tennessee, Texas or any other state. By flat-funding the Ovarian Cancer Research Program, we will be able to maintain our current level of research and move closer to that goal.

“Thank you for this opportunity to speak on behalf of women battling ovarian cancer today. I am happy to answer any questions.”

The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance is the foremost advocate for women with ovarian cancer in the United States. To advance the interests of women with ovarian cancer, the organization advocates at a national level for increases in research funding for the development of an early detection test, improved health care practices, and life-saving treatment protocols. The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance educates health care professionals and raises public awareness of the risks, signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer. The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance is a 501 (c) (3) organization established in 1997.



For more information, or to schedule an interview with Ms. Leighton, please contact Amanda Davis at adavis@ovariancancer.org or (202)331-1332.