Eve Appeal and Boots

The high-street retailer runs a gene screening trial for ovarian cancer

This charity funds research into a disease that kills thousands of women every year and has raised more than £1m in two years by selling branded merchandise in a high-street retailer. And the cause is not breast cancer.

The Eve Appeal supports research into ovarian and other gynaecological cancers. Seven thousand women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year, and nearly 5,000 of those die.

With its annual income of £1.5m, the charity aims to halve that death rate, and it wants its partnership with Boots to help advance that goal.

The partnership began in 2006 with a direct approach to Boots by the charity's then chief executive. For the company, with its mainly female workforce and customer base, the Eve Appeal had obvious potential.

Oonagh Turnbull, head of CSR at Boots, says: "We had worked with Breast Cancer Care for a number of years and were looking for another cause that was about women's health."

Since the beginning of 2007, the partnership has raised £1.2m, mainly through products such as keyrings, mobile phone charms, bracelets and badges, which all carry the appeal's red heart logo. All products are accompanied by leaflets about the Eve Appeal and ovarian cancer.

More unusually, the partnership has also branched out into medical research. A two-year cancer gene screening trial is under way at Boots' Mill Hill branch in north London, testing high-risk groups of women to see if they have a genetic predisposition to ovarian cancer.

Jane Lyons, director of the Eve Appeal, says: "We believe it is the first research trial of its kind to bring together a world class research centre and a major high-street retailer."

Ovarian cancer is relatively underfunded compared with breast cancer, and much less prevalent in the public consciousness, but Lyons believes the Boots partnership is beginning to bridge the gap.

"It's getting bigger," she says. "It's not talked about so much and it's not so much in the public forum, but it's moving up the agenda. As a cause, we are probably 10 to 15 years behind breast cancer."

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