Ectopic pregnancy: Cancer drug trial hopes to stop women needing drastic surgery
A commonly used cancer drug could “revolutionise” the way life-threatening ectopic pregnancies are treated, medical researchers in Melbourne say.
About 5,000 Australian women experience an ectopic pregnancy each year, where the embryo settles in the fallopian tubes instead of the uterus.
As the embryo grows, it can cause the tubes to rupture, leading to extreme blood loss and emergency surgery.
A chemotherapy drug called methotrexate is used to treat the disorder, but it can only be used in the early stages of pregnancy and fails in 75 per cent of cases.
In those cases, surgery which involves removing a fallopian tube is required, thereby reducing a woman’s ability to conceive children in the future.
However, researchers at the Mercy Hospital for Women in Melbourne’s north-east say they have discovered another cancer treatment drug called vinorelbine could be up to 1,000 times more effective, drastically reducing the need for surgery.
‘These women will never have to go under the knife’
PhD candidate Roxanne Hastie said tests of the drug on mice had paved the way to a clinical human trial starting next month.
“This could potentially revolutionise the treatment of ectopic pregnancy for these women, if our clinical trials are successful it could completely replace the requirement for surgery,” she said.
“So these women never have to face those risks, they can go on to have future successful pregnancies and never have to go under the knife.”
Ms Hastie hopes her research will help save the lives of women in developing countries where access to medical care is limited.
“Our hope is that in developing countries where lots of people live in rural areas without access to surgery, women can get access to the tablet,” she said.
“It could mean these women have a higher rate of survival.”
‘This could kill me’: mother’s ectopic pregnancy pain
The promising research has been welcomed by mother-of-two Kimberley Cornwell, who had given birth to her first daughter Charlotte through IVF when she fell pregnant again.
When doctors discovered the pregnancy was ectopic, they tried to treat it with methotrexate, but it failed and her fallopian tube ruptured.
“The pain was … I couldn’t explain what the pain felt like,” she said.
“It was scary for me to realise what was actually going on because before it happens to you, you never look into what an ectopic pregnancy is.
“For me to go and have a look and go ‘oh my God, this could potentially kill me’ was really scary because I had Charlotte to look after.”
She hopes other pregnant woman can avoid the sudden and traumatic surgery doctors performed to save her life.
“Had an option like [vinorelbine] been around for me, I would have taken it in a heartbeat, I certainly didn’t want surgery,” she said.
Clinical trials on humans will begin next month in New Zealand and Australia.
If successful, researchers say the drug could be available for ectopic pregnancy treatment in the next five to seven years.
This content was originally published here.