ANN ARBOR, Mich.--Research from the University of Michigan Women's Health Program suggests that gene therapy may someday control a condition responsible for nearly half the 550,000 hysterectomies performed in the United States each year.
Leiomyoma tumors---commonly known as fibroids---are benign growths that develop in the uterus and often cause pelvic pain, abnormal uterine bleeding, excessive urinary pressure, decreased fertility, and increased chance of miscarriage. Treatment typically involves a hysterectomy that excises the tumors along with the patient's uterus.
The U-M research, however, offers hope of a non-surgical alternative that would leave a patient's uterus, and fertility, intact. U-M physicians, administering DNA tailored to inhibit tumor growth, have effectively killed human leiomyoma cells in laboratory tests and suppressed leiomyoma tumors in lab rats.
The significance of this development is enormous, because fibroids are the most common tumor in humans and hysterectomy is the most common surgical procedure performed in this country. It is estimated that:
"Leiomoyomas are an incredibly common problem," said Gregory M. Christman, M.D., an assistant professor and research scientist in the U-M Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and lead investigator in the leiomyoma study. "Our treatment had a pronounced effect on them, suggesting it may ultimately be feasible to treat uterine leiomyomas with gene therapy."