Researchers at Yale University's School of Medicine have designed a new form of estrogen that could improve the treatment of vaginal atrophy, commonly referred to as vaginal dryness. Experienced by many postmenopausal and other women with lost or diminished ovarian function, the condition can result in pain during sexual intercourse. The study will appear in the June 7 issue of the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.
"We have synthesized the first locally active estrogen with no systemic effect [in animal studies]," said Richard Hochberg, Ph.D., the lead investigator in the study and a professor in Yale's Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in New Haven, Conn.
Although vaginal atrophy can be effectively treated with estrogen replacement therapy, this has been associated with certain health risks, including breast cancer, endometrial cancer and stroke, leading many women to avoid this therapy altogether. Unlike the normal estrogen molecule, the new compound acts only on the tissue to which it is applied, reducing risks and providing a potentially safer alternative, the researchers say.
They suggest that the modified estrogen could be particularly helpful in treating vaginal atrophy in women for whom estrogen replacement is not advised, including those with breast or endometrial cancer.
The drug has not yet been tested in humans. If the new estrogen ultimately proves to restore some of the physical comfort of sexual intercourse in postmenopausal women while reducing health risks, it could provide an important new tool in the treatment of female sexual dysfunction in much the same way that Viagra has helped relieve impotence in some men, predicts Hochberg.
Vaginal dyspareunia (dis-pa-ROON-ia), the medical term for vaginal atrophy, most often occurs in women after menopause. Studies have shown that more than 40 percent of postmenopausal wome
Contact: Luana Bossolo
American Chemical Society