A CANCER drug could offer relief to millions of women with endometriosis, experts have revealed.
There is currently no cure for the excruciating condition that affects one in ten women in the UK.
It's where cells like those in the lining of the womb grow outside the uterus, often on the ovaries, Fallopian tubes or abdomen.
Each month these cells act like those in the womb, building up and then breaking down and bleeding.
But unlike the cells in the womb that leave the body as a period, this blood has no way to escape.
As a result the chronic condition is incredibly debilitating for the estimated 1.5 million women affected.
Now, a team of scientists at the University of Edinburgh believe a cancer drug, dichloroacetate might pave the way for new treatments.
They found the drug lowers the production of lactate - a potentially harmful waste product.
And the medication was also found to stop abnormal cell growth.
The scientists found the cells in the pelvic wall of women with endometriosis have a different metabolism to those free of the crippling disease.
This is why we are so excited by the findings of this research, which could lay the basis for the first new non-hormonal treatment offering women a life-changing optionJanet Lindsay, CEO Wellbeing of Women
Their cells produced more lactate - acting in a similar way to cancer cells.
When these cells were treated in the lab with the cancer drug, the researchers found their metabolic behaviour returned to normal.
They also noted a reduction in lactate and that the drug impacted on the growth of endometrial cells grown together with pelvic cells.
A second round of experiments on mice, showed that after seven days there was a reduction in lactate concentrations, and the size of lesions reduced too.
The next step is to conduct clinical trials with volunteers.
Prof Andrew Horne, who led the study, said: "Endometriosis can be a life-changing condition for so many women.
"Now that we understand better the metabolism of the cells in women that have endometriosis, we can work to develop a non-hormonal treatment.
"Through a clinical trial with dichloroacetate we should be able to see if the conditions we observed in the lab are replicated in women."
Currently, the treatments available to women with endometriosis are either hormone based, which can cause unpleasant side-effects, or surgery.
But, in half of cases where women have lesions removed surgically, they return after five years.
The new findings offer hope to women who can't - or don't want to - opt for hormonal treatment. And it could stop recurrence after surgery.
How does endometriosis affect women?
ENDOMETRIOSIS is a chronic and debilitating condition.
It causes heavy periods, and can lead to infertility, fatigue and bowel and bladder problems.
It's estimated around 1.5 million women in the UK suffer the condition - that can affect all women and girls of childbearing age.
The condition causes cells like those in the lining of the womb to grow outside the uterus, often on the ovaries, Fallopian tubes and in the abdomen.
Every month these cells react in the same way as those in the womb - building up and breaking down, and bleeding.
But unlike the cells in the womb, the blood has no way to escape.
This can cause inflammation, pain and the formation of scar tissue.
The condition can have a huge impact on a woman's life, causing:
- chronic pain
- fatigue and general lack of energy
- problem's with their sex life and relationships
- difficulty fulfilling work and social lives
To find out more and seek support, visit the Endometriosis UK website here.
MORE ON ENDOMETRIOSIS
The charity Wellbeing of Women helped to fund the research, supported by PwC and the Medical Research Council UK.
Janet Lindsay, the charity's CEO, said: "More than 176 million women suffer from endometriosis yet few people have heard of it and treatment, which can impact fertility, has progressed very little for over 40 years.
"This is why we are so excited by the findings of this research, which could lay the basis for the first new non-hormonal treatment offering women a life-changing option.
"We are delighted that Professor Horne's new treatment going to clinical trial could hugely impact so many women's lives."
The new findings are published in the journal, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.