UCL Partnership

Gynaecological Cancer Research Centre

UCL GroupAbcodia works closely with the Gynaecological Cancer Research Centre (GCRC) at the UCL Institute of Women’s Health. The GCRC is one of the world’s leading research groups for the early detection and screening of ovarian cancer and a multitude of related projects in risk stratification and early diagnosis of women’s cancer.

The GCRC is led by Professor Usha Menon. The group was set up by Professor Ian Jacobs (a co-founder of Abcodia) in the mid 1980s at the then The Royal London Medical School to explore population screening for ovarian cancer.

In 1996 following the merger of Bart’s and The Royal London the group moved to Bart’s Hospital and then in 2004 to the Institute for Women’s Health at UCL. The group now consists of a multidisciplinary team of medical, nursing, scientific, laboratory and administrative staff who oversee and coordinate large multi-centre trials focused on risk prediction, screening and early detection of ovarian cancer including the United Kingdom Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening (UKCTOCS).

The team conceived the UKCTOCS Biobank and are its custodians. They work collaboratively with Abcodia on all projects that utilise the serum and associated clinical data generated during the UKCTOCS trial.

Key Collaborators

Professor Usha Menon, Head of the GCRC

Usha Menon is Professor of Gynaecological Oncology and Head of Gynaecological Cancer Research Centre (GCRC) at the Institute for Women’s Health University College London and Consultant / Lead Clinician for the Familial Gynaecological Cancer Service at University College Hospital. The main focus of her research is genetic and epidemiological risk factors, symptoms, screening and early detection of gynaecological malignancies, in particular ovarian. She is co-principle investigator and trial coordinator of the UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening (UKCTOCS), principle investigator of the UK Ovarian Cancer Population Study (UKOPS) and co-investigator of the UK Familial Ovarian Cancer Screening Study (UKFOCSS). The research has attracted funding from Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK, Department of Health and the Eve Appeal amounting to over £25 million. Her main clinical interest is management of women at risk of familial gynaecological cancer.

Dr. Sophia Apostolidou, Abcodia Lead Research Associate

Sophia has a degree and PhD in genetics and has 8 years of postdoctoral experience in research, undertaking projects with both academic and industrial collaborators. Since 2006 her main research interest focuses on biomarker discovery for ovarian as well as other cancers using the unique UKCTOCS serum biobank. She works almost exclusively with Abcodia and is a co-ordinating member of the UKCTOCS trial team. Sophia has extensive experience in working with databases and the best use of them to identify suitable samples for biomarker studies.

Dr. Alex Gentry-Maharaj, Senior Research Associate

Alex has 10 years of experience in clinical trials. Her main interests include screening for ovarian and endometrial cancer in the general population. Alex is part of the UKCTOCS core trial team. She coordinates the UKOPS study, which is part of the International Ovarian Cancer Association Consortium (OCAC) looking at genetic predisposition to ovarian cancer. She has an interest in the menopause transition and the therapies that women use to alleviate their menopausal symptoms. Other interests include biomarker discovery for ovarian and other cancers. Alex has written a number of book chapters and has over 60 publications in the area of screening, early detection and genetic predisposition to ovarian cancer.

Dr. Andy Ryan, Data Manager

Andy has a molecular biology background with degree and PhD. After 8 years working as a postdoctoral scientist in the field of ovarian cancer he moved over to data administration of the UKCTOCS trial. A key member of the UKCTOCS core trial team, he manages, analyses and oversees the information governance of all the GCRC’s clinical trials data.

Dr. Evangelia Ourania Fourkala

Evangelia-Ourania (Rania) Fourkala was awarded her PhD from Women’s Cancer Department, IFWH, UCL in 2011 investigating novel biomarkers in breast cancer under the supervision of Prof Usha Menon and Prof Martin Widschwendter. She now has three years of Postdoc experience with research interests including biomarker discovery for early detection and risk prediction of gynaecological and colorectal cancer participating in numerous collaborative projects within the UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening. She is also involved in the International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership helping with Module 4 that investigates roots at delays in cancer diagnosis. Her main focus is to better understand breast cancer by exploring novel risk factors (epidemiological analysis) and biomarkers (mainly hormonal, but also microRNA, genetic and in collaboration with Prof Widschwendter epigenetic) for the early detection and risk prediction of the disease.

Robert Liston, Software Architect

Robert spent over 20 years as a software developer and designer, chiefly in the Lloyd’s of London insurance market before joining GCRC in 2008. Whilst in the commercial world, he designed and then supported the trial management software for the UKCTOCS trial. Since joining the Centre he has developed online software to simplify multicentre data collection and curation for a number of other studies, such as UKOPS; GCaPPS; UKGOSOC, a multicentre prospective audit of surgical outcomes in patients with gynaecological cancer; and the on-going International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership Module 4, for which GCRC is the main data management location.