Vinorelbine tablets: New ectopic pregnancy treatment trialled

by pregnancy journalist

Early can be both an exciting time, and a terrifying time for many women.

For women at an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy, there have been some interesting developments that are very promising.

Translational Obstetrics Group (TOG) researchers based at Mercy Hospital for Women and the University of Melbourne have discovered a potential new way to treat ectopic pregnancy. 

It could all be solved with a few tablets

“Currently, most ectopic pregnancies are treated surgically,” TOG Researcher Roxanne Hastie explained. “While this is safe, surgery still carries significant risks and is a costly option. The surgical removal of an ectopic pregnancy often involves removing the entire fallopian tube, which can impact on a woman’s chances of falling pregnant again.”

Injection of a chemotherapy drug called Methotrexate is one medical alternative, however, it is not always effective, and is limited to use in the very early stages of the ectopic pregnancy.

With approximately 5,000 Australian women experiencing an ectopic pregnancy each year, a less invasive and more reliable alternative would be welcome news to many women.

Protecting future fertility

A tablet called Vinorelbine — which is used to treat a variety of cancers with minimal side effects, and safely used on an ongoing basis — has been found to be 100 to 1,000 times more potent in the laboratory when compared to Methotrexate.

Researchers have also found that treating mice with a high dose of Vinorelbine did not affect their ability to fall pregnant. When the research extended into human fallopian tubes, Vinorelbine continued to be promising by showing no signs of damage to them.

Hastie said, “The remarkable possibility exists that the drug may be so potent just a few tablets could be enough to treat the majority of ectopic pregnancies without affecting a woman’s fertility.”

About ectopic pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy is an extremely serious and potentially life-threatening condition where the fertilised egg implants inside the fallopian tube instead of the uterus.

It is also known as a tubal pregnancy, and while all steps are taken to preserve a woman’s future fertility, removing an ectopic pregnancy also requires removing the fallopian tube in most cases.

Once you have had an ectopic pregnancy, your chances of having another goes from 1 in 100 to 1 in 10 and this statistic continues to grow with each ectopic pregnancy. It is therefore, understandably, a common source of anxiety in women who are considered to be higher risk.

While Vinorelbine is yet to be clinically tested in humans consuming it orally to specifically treat ectopic pregnancy, the findings so far are extremely promising.

The team at Mercy Hospital for Women has collaborated with colleagues in New Zealand to begin a clinical trial to test whether oral Vinorelbine alone could be used to treat ectopic pregnancy. Let’s hope the trials go well and we can soon treat ectopic pregnancy with less trauma to women that are already experiencing more than enough.

A few tablets could potentially treat ectopic pregnancy

Claire Haiek |

Researchers in Melbourne have discovered a potential new way to treat ectopic pregnancy, that could replace the need for surgery.


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