Northwestern Memorial participates in trial to test effectiveness of drug to treat endometriosis

Doctors at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine are testing the effectiveness of an investigational drug, ERB-041, to relieve pelvic pain and inflammation due to endometriosis, a chronic condition that affects more than 5.5 million American women. Endometriosis is caused when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grows elsewhere in the body, causing chronic pelvic pain, painful menstruation and painful intercourse, and often limits a woman's ability to carry out normal daily activities.

"While some current treatments for endometriosis may be effective for a short period of time, they also often have significant side effects," explains Lee Shulman, MD, medical director, Reproductive Genetics, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, and principal investigator on the arm of the study being conducted at Northwestern. "For example, one of the most commonly used treatments for endometriosis today are gonadotropin- releasing hormones (GnRH) analogs. This group of drugs decreases the production of estrogen to the levels a woman has after menopause, causing side effects such as bone loss, hot flashes, and mood swings."

ERB-041 is an experimental medication that selectively works to target a recently discovered receptor, estrogen receptor-β (ERβ). Receptors are very specialized protein molecules that sit on the surface of cells in the body. They act like an on-off switch for a particular activity in the cell. If the right substance comes along that fits the receptor -- like a key fitting into a lock -- the switch is turned on and a particular activity in the cell begins. "ERB-041 is a 'key' for ERβ, and in preclinical models can cause endometriosis lesion regression," explains Dr. Shulman. "Because ERB-041 is highly selective for ERβ, it does not affect reproductive organs like nonsel

Contact: Patty Keiler
Northwestern Memorial Hospital

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