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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 August, 2003, 12:20 GMT 13:20 UK
Drug could stop womb disease
Young women
Scientists say it may be possible to prevent women developing the painful condition endometriosis, which can cause infertility.

University of Cambridge researchers say tests of drugs which disrupt the development of crucial blood vessels have shown promising results.

Endometriosis is a condition in which the type of tissue that lines the inside of the womb is found elsewhere in the pelvis.

In the womb, this endometrial tissue builds up during the menstrual cycle, and then breaks down and sheds off during a period.

Any advance in the ongoing quest to find a cure for this debilitating condition is of tremendous value
Robert Music, National Endometriosis Society
But if the tissue grows outside the womb, it can result in internal bleeding and inflammation.

Endometriosis, which can cause severe pain during periods and problems conceiving, affects around two million women in the UK.

Current treatments for the condition include surgery to remove the tissue and drugs to disrupt reproductive hormones.

However, doctors say both methods have drawbacks and the only permanent treatment is a hysterectomy or removal of the ovaries.

Blood vessels

Women with endometriosis have large numbers of immature blood vessels supplying tissue outside the womb.

In order to mature, these cells need a protein called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF).

The Cambridge researchers treated mice with antibodies which can stop VEGF working.

They found the treatment reduced the number of endometriosis-like lesions in the mice.

They say that, because the way blood is supplied to human endometriosis tissue is very similar, the treatment should also benefit women.

More research will now be needed in order to test how safe and effective the drugs are in humans.

But initial results from a US study, which looked at using VEGF-blockers to treat colorectal cancer, have suggested the drugs are effective and have few side effects.

Impact

Dr Louise Hull, of the Departments of Pathology and Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Cambridge, said: "This research shows the potential for better treatments for a disease that effects more than one in 10 women in this country.

"This new treatment may reduce the need for surgery and overcome the side effects associated with current medical therapies for endometriosis."

Robert Music, chief executive of the National Endometriosis Society, said: "Any advance in the ongoing quest to find a cure for this debilitating condition is of tremendous value.

"It affects two million women in the UK and impacts on their lives in a number of ways - chronic pain, fatigue, depression, problems with a couple's sex life, an inability to conceive and difficulties fulfilling work commitments."


SEE ALSO:
Womb agony has family link
27 Feb 02  |  Health
Endometriosis cancer risk
04 Jul 03  |  Health
Endometriosis
28 Feb 03  |  Medical notes


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