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Aromatase inhibitors: A promising new treatment for endometriosis

Letrozole (Femara), an aromatase inhibitor currently used to prevent breast cancer recurrence in postmenopausal women, shows promise in the treatment of endometriosis, according to the results of a pioneering pilot study conducted by Serdar Bulun, M.D., chief of the Division of Reproductive Biology Research at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. His findings were published in the February issue of Fertility and Sterility.

"This study demonstrates the potential of aromatase inhibitors to significantly and rapidly reduce disease severity and pain, offering women a new and more effective way of suppressing endometriosis with fewer side effects," explains Dr. Bulun. "Endometriosis is caused when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows elsewhere in the body and affects about 10 to 15 percent of women of reproductive age. It causes chronic pelvic pain and contributes to infertility."

Within the past 10 years, the research team led by Dr. Bulun pioneered the molecular model that the aromatase enzyme, which produces estrogen, is present in the endometrial tissue of women with endometriosis. His team discovered that this enzyme is able to reproduce itself, creating a vicious cycle of estrogen production.

"This explains why despite surgery, hormone treatments and hysterectomies, many women continue to suffer with symptoms of endometriosis," explains Dr. Bulun. "Endometriosis is an estrogen-dependent disease, so estrogen for endometriosis is like fuel for fire. We need to attack the root problem the aromatase in order to eliminate this cycle, halt the local production of estrogen and treat women with this disease."

Dr. Bulun evaluated 10 patients with moderate to severe endometriosis, all previously treated both medically and surgically with unsatisfactory results. Each of these patients took letrozole, along with progestin, for six months. Dr. Bulun evaluated the endometriosis objectively by performing laparoscop
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Contact: Patty Keiler
pkeiler@nmh.org
312-926-5900
Northwestern Memorial Hospital
13-Feb-2004


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