Cancer drug could reduce painful periods in women suffering from endometriosis, shows study
Researchers are conducting an early-phase clinical trial to confirm their findings. Currently, women depend on either hormone-based therapy that produces unpleasant side effects or surgery, which results in lesions returning after 5 years, 50% of the time.
Painful periods due to endometriosis may become a thing of the past, as scientists are hopeful that a cancer drug could treat the condition. If the drug performs well in clinical trials, the treatment could put an end to the suffering of more than 176 million women affected by the painful condition.
The cancer drug, dichloroacetate, has been around since 2007. Tests have shown that the drug -- which remains unapproved to this day -- does not efficiently kill cancer cells. But, according to scientists from the University of Edinburgh, their initial results show that the drug could be repurposed to treat endometriosis in women. These women currently depend on either hormone-based therapy that produces unpleasant side effects, or surgery, which results in lesions returning after 5 years, 50% of the time, say experts.
The researchers believe these new findings could help alleviate endometriosis in women who cannot - or do not wish to - take hormonal treatments or prevent recurrence after surgery. The team is conducting an early-phase clinical trial to confirm their findings.
Women have this condition when the tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus grows outside of it. Doctors still do not understand what triggers the condition that affects one in every 10 women: often primary care doctors do not know what it is and the specialists to whom they are sent are ill-informed, according to The Guardian.
"More than 176 million women suffer from endometriosis yet few people have heard of it and treatment, which can impact fertility, has progressed very little for over 40 years. This is why we are so excited by the findings of this research that Wellbeing of Women has funded and which could lay the basis for the first new non-hormonal treatment offering women a life-changing option," says Janet Lindsay, CEO of Wellbeing of Women, a charity which funded the study.
To better understand the condition, Edinburgh scientists studied the cells from the pelvic wall of women with endometriosis. These cells produced high levels of a chemical called lactate, in levels normally found in cancer cells. This led Edinburgh scientists to test whether the cancer drug, dichloroacetate, could bring down the levels of lactate in these cells.
Laboratory tests revealed that the cells returned to normalcy, thanks to the drug. Further tests in mice showed that the drug significantly reduced levels of lactate concentrations and the size of lesions.
"Endometriosis can be a life-changing condition for so many women. Now that we understand better the metabolism of the cells in women that have endometriosis, we can work to develop a non-hormonal treatment. Through a clinical trial with dichloroacetate we should be able to see if the conditions we observed in the lab are replicated in women," says lead Researcher, says Professor Andrew Horne, MRC Centre for Reproductive Health at the University of Edinburgh.
This research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.