Cancer Drug Could Offer Hope For Thousands Of Endometriosis Sufferers
There's fresh hope for the 1.5 million women in the UK suffering from endometriosis after experts discovered an existing cancer drug that can be used to treat the debilitating condition.
One in 10 women in the UK suffer from the incurable chronic pain condition, where tissue similar to the lining of the womb begins to grow in other places such as the fallopian tubes and ovaries.
Currently, treatments for the condition are limited and can only manage symptoms - which include severe period pains, pain during intercourse, extreme bloating and difficulty getting pregnant - rather than providing a long-term solution.
However, researchers at the University of Edinburgh have found that it may be possible to repurpose a drug previously used for cancer to help women with the condition.
The group of scientists found that using cancer drug dichloroacetate lowered the production of lactate - a potentially harmful waste product - and stopped abnormal cell growth.
Professor Andrew Horne of the university's Centre for Reproductive Health spoke on BBC Radio 4's Today programme about the research.
Speaking about his team's process, he explained: "The first thing we did was show that women with endometriosis have pelvic cells lining the wall of the pelvis but have different metabolism compared to women without disease.
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"We then treated these cells with the drug dichloroacetate, and we were able to show that we were able to revert the cells to normal metabolism. And these are the features you can see some times when cancer develops."
He added that scientists found they could revert the cells when trialled on a mouse model endometriosis, but it would need to be tested in a full clinical trial to assess its effectiveness.
Later, BBC host Justin Webb quizzed him on when the treatment might be available for sufferers if it is successful in the clinical trial.
Prof Horne explained that while the drug has been safely used before in cancer treatment, "we have to test it as if someone were taking it on a long terms basis" adding it could take "potentially five years" to be brought to market.
The professor added he'd like to see the new cancer drug replace many of the hormone treatments that are currently available for endometriosis.
"This is a young population of women who want to have children, if we can develop a treatment like this which can be taken not have an impact on fertility that would be a major step forward," he said.
While we're still a long way off the treatment being widely available to endo sufferers, it could one day provide hope for millions.
Just this week, Emma Bunton spoke about her struggles with endometriosis in a candid new interview, saying it "nearly broke" her.
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