Research continues to show that the controversial abortion drug mifepristone might have another use, as a therapeutic option besides hysterectomy for women who suffer from severe symptoms associated with uterine fibroids.
The University of Rochester Medical Center in 2004 began investigating mifepristone, in a class of drugs known as progesterone receptor modulators (PRMs), to treat fibroids, which affect roughly half of all women younger than 50. Results showed the drug shrank the fibroids and greatly improved the quality of life for the women involved in the clinical trial.
But concern over whether PRMs could cause tissue changes that signal uterine cancer dampened a growing interest in the drug. The latest URMC study demonstrates that PRMs do not appear to trigger cancerous or pre-cancerous lesions in the lining of the uterus, at least in the short term, according to an article in the journal Human Pathology.
"Our biggest concern was cancer, and although we saw significant changes in the endometrial tissue specific to the action of PRMs, all of the changes were benign and well characterized in the laboratory," said lead investigator Julietta Fiscella, M.D., clinical assistant professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at URMC and Director of Pathology at Highland Hospital, an affiliate of URMC.
Fiscella analyzed 152 tissue samples from 53 premenopausal women in the Rochester, N.Y., area, who volunteered to take mifepristone at very low doses for up to 18 months to alleviate miserable symptoms such as pain and heavy bleeding. She compared samples of unexposed endometrial tissue to samples from women who took the drug in 2.5 mg or 5 mg dosages. (To end an unwanted pregnancy, mifepristone is given in a single-day dose of 200 to 600 mg.)
The changes most evident in the drug-exposed tissue included fluid-filled glands that appeared as scattered, benign cysts of varying size, and some abnormal blood vessel
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University of Rochester Medical Center