Elsa and Kristen Larsen

Woman continues to honour sister’s dying wish

It’s been six months since Elsa Larsen lost her sister Kristen to ovarian cancer. She was just 27 years old. Not a day goes by that her sister doesn’t remember her.

Brisbane woman Kristen was 21 when she received the devastating news she had ovarian cancer. She was diagnosed with a rare subtype called low-grade serous carcinoma (LGSC) while living in London. She remained on constant treatment until her passing in December 2019.

Ovarian cancer is the sixth most common cause of cancer death in Australia. It was once thought of as a single disease however recent discoveries have led researchers to understand there are many different, distinct types of ovarian cancer.

LGSC was recognised in 2004. It makes up less than six percent of ovarian cancers. There are few treatments and survival rates are poor. It disproportionately affects young women, like Kristen.

Research has been scarce due to the rare nature and lack of awareness. In Australia rare cancers account for nearly half of all cancer deaths but receive less than 14% of all research funding.

“Ovarian cancer is a complex disease, with a number of very distinct subtypes that respond differently to chemotherapy. Low-grade serous ovarian cancer is one subtype that doesn’t usually respond well to standard ovarian cancer chemotherapy. We need to understand why low-grade serous ovarian cancer can happen in such young women, and we are committed to finding new and more effective treatments.” Professor Anna deFazio Sydney-West Chair in Translational Cancer Research, University of Sydney; Co-Director, Centre for Cancer Research, Westmead Institute for Medical Research, Sydney Australia

In such a short life, Kristen achieved so much. She was a tireless advocate for ovarian cancer. In 2019 she was a Young Australian of the Year finalist for Queensland. She created a podcast Ovarshare to support and inspire others. She spoke at parliament and advocated for dedicated ovarian cancer research funding. The first set of government grants were released this year. But she wanted so much more. More time, better treatments, and more funding for research.

Kristen’s dying wish was to raise an incredible one million dollars to support research on her cancer through Cure Our Ovarian Cancer. Cure Our Ovarian Cancer, a global charity dedicated to her subtype, has raised over $60 000 in Australia to date. The money raised supports the low-grade serous ovarian cancer research being undertaken by Australia New Zealand Gynaecological Oncology Group (ANZGOG), the peak gynaecological cancer research organisation in Australia.

June the 19th would have been Kristen’s 28th birthday. Her sister has set a target of raising $28,000. “Kristen wanted her advocacy to continue on even after her death and that we would also continue to celebrate her birthday and the amazing life she lead. Combining Kristen’s birthday and her advocacy legacy is an opportunity to raise thousands of dollars to fund this desperately needed research. Kristen didn’t want her friends and other young women in the future to run out of options like she did. I’m so humbled that we can honour and celebrate Kristen’s life in this way whilst giving hope to women in the future like Kristen.” Elsa Larsen

“Kristen would have been so proud of the continued efforts of Elsa to honour her legacy and help other women” – Jane Ludemann, friend and Founder of Cure Our Ovarian Cancer.

More research into low-grade serous ovarian cancer is needed to improve survival for younger women. Show your support by making a donation to Kristen’s 28th birthday campaign.