THURSDAY, July 1 (HealthDay News) -- Preliminary research
suggests that a new drug treatment shrinks uterine fibroids and
helps women with the non-cancerous tumors retain their
Uterine fibroids, which cause abdominal pain and heavy menstrual
bleeding, are a leading cause of hysterectomy. They can also
contribute to miscarriage.
"Both the fibroids and the surgical interventions commonly used to treat them can cause significant fertility problems," Dr. Alicia Armstrong, chief of gynecologic services at the U.S. National Institutes of Health's Program for Reproductive and Adult Endocrinology, said in a news release.
In two new studies, researchers tested a drug called ulipristal
acetate (also known as ellaOne), which blocks ovulation and is used
as a form of emergency contraception. It works by adjusting the
body's reaction to the hormone progesterone.
In the studies, 57 women aged 25-50 with uterine fibroids were
randomly assigned to receive treatment with the drug or a placebo.
They took the pills once a day for three menstrual cycles.
The fibroids shrank in more of those women who took the drug
instead of the placebo, and those who took higher doses had better
results. Women who took the drug also had less bleeding than those
who took the placebo.
The studies show that the drug "is an effective non-invasive
treatment for fibroids that can help maintain fertility in women
whose only option up to now was to have surgery," Dr. Lynnette
Nieman, a principal investigator with the studies, said in the news
release issued by the European Society of Human Reproduction and
The studies are both in Phase II, the second in three phases of
research required before the federal government will approve a drug
for a specific use.
In an interview, Dr. Scott Chudnoff, a gynecologist and uterine
fibroid specialist, said the research could lead to significant new
treatments for women with fibroids. But some women might not
respond the same way to the treatment, and the fibroids may return
when women stop taking the drug, said Chudnoff, director of
gynecology at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.
Still, a new treatment would help doctors do a better job of
personalizing their approach to individual patients, he said. The
research, he added, is "definitely promising."
The study findings were to be presented Wednesday at the annual
meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and
Embryology in Rome.
For more about
uterine fibroids, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.