Where Ideas Grow

Alfredo da Silva Research Award to Carla Oliveira & team

The project “Hereditary Breast Ovarian Cancer – HBOC: Optimizing hereditary cancer pathways (saving costs and lives)”, led by researcher Carla Oliveira, won the Alfredo da Silva Research Award in the area of Health Systems Sustainability.

This prize, which is promoted by the Amélia de Mello Foundation and is worth 25 thousand euros, was scientifically curated by the Universidade NOVA de Lisboa / NOVAhealth and aims to reward projects in the areas of social, economic, and political sustainability that are developed in Portuguese institutions. The award-winning project focuses on the advantages of prevention over the treatment of hereditary ovarian breast cancers and is led by i3S researcher Carla Oliveira. The team is vast and has as pivotal members PhD student Liliana Sousa (i3S), and institutional representatives Fátima Carneiro (University Hospital Center of São João), Fátima Vaz (IPO-Lisbon), Judite Gonçalves (New School of Business and Economics) ), Helena Canhão (NOVA Medical School), and Tamara Milagre (EVITA).

The project, explains Carla Oliveira, has as its main objective “to calculate the real impact of the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer on the finances of hospitals, the national health system, the quality of life of patients and carriers, and in society in general. We also hope to generate data that will make it possible to predict the life expectancy of carriers of this type of cancer, practically for all clinical presentations that arise in carriers of germline mutations”.

“Our great expectation”, continues the researcher, “is to produce a study that presents solid evidence to hospital administrators and policy makers that prevention is more cost-effective than treatment. In this case, we are talking about preventing young relatives of almost 400,000 people, with a family history and carriers of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome/year (mainly caused by variants in the BRCA1 and BRCA2) genes, from evolving to serious illness. It is our duty to demonstrate the great social and financial benefits of prevention, not only for carriers and patients with these syndromes, but also for healthcare providers, caregivers, and society in general”.

Researcher Carla Oliveira leads, as Member and National Coordinator of the European Reference Network GENTURIS, a project related to Hereditary Diffuse Gastric Cancers (HDGC) in the European consortium Solving Rare Diseases (Solve-RD). She also coordinated the first cost-effectiveness model study for HDGC, and now this award-winning project is the first to be conducted on hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndromes.

“We are in a privileged position to carry out this study, not only because we have a multidisciplinary team that is very experienced in this area, but also because the motivation is great, and our work has been recognized both nationally and internationally”. “The contribution and encouragement of the EVITA Patient Association for the promotion of this project was essential and gives a sense of reality to the project”, stresses Carla Oliveira. It is also important to underline, she adds, that “our innovative strategy can be applied to other hereditary diseases”.