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Last Updated: Saturday, 14 February, 2004, 00:04 GMT
Cancer drug 'fights womb disease'
As many as 2m British women may have the condition
A drug used to treat breast cancer may also help women with the painful condition endometriosis.

Researchers in the United States say Letrozole can reduce the pain and severity of the disease.

The findings, published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, are based on a study of 10 women over six months.

Endometriosis occurs when the tissue which normally lines the uterus is found elsewhere in the pelvis. It can cause infertility.

Severe pain

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

But if the tissue grows outside the womb, it can result in internal bleeding and inflammation.

This is an interesting preliminary study
Dr Andrew Prentice,
Cambridge University
This can cause women to experience severe pain during periods and have problems conceiving.

Doctors do not know what causes endometriosis and there is no cure.

Women with the condition are offered a range of treatments from hormone therapy to surgery. However, these are not always effective.

Dr Serdar Bulun and colleagues at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago in believe letrozole could be a more effective alternative.

Their findings are based on a study of 10 women, all of whom had endometriosis. Medical and surgical treatments had failed to help them.

Each woman took Letrozole and the hormone progestin for six months. Letrozole is currently used to women with a history of breast cancer from developing the disease again.

Dr Bulun carried out a medical examination on each of the woman at the end of the study period.

He found that their condition had improved greatly. Their endometriosis had either disappeared or was strikingly reduced. The women also reported much less pain.

"These results appear extremely promising," said Dr Bulun.

He said Letrozole may be able to "significantly and rapidly reduce disease severity and pain offering women a new and more effective way of suppressing endometriosis with fewer side effects".

Further research

Dr Andrew Prentice, a senior lecturer in obstetrics and gynaecology at Cambridge University, said the findings were interesting.

But he warned much more research is needed before the drug could be made available to women with endometriosis.

"This is an interesting preliminary study," he told BBC News Online.

"However, it involves a small number of women and more research is needed.

"It highlights the potential of this drug as an alternative treatment for women who have this condition."

28 Feb 03  |  Medical notes
Drug could stop womb disease
19 Aug 03  |  Health
Womb agony has family link
27 Feb 02  |  Health

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