Dr. Hugh S. Taylor of the Yale School of Medicine discussed possible biomarkers for diagnosing, managing and treating the disease at the World Congress on Endometriosis in Vancouver, Canada, May 17-20. Two possibilities he discussed were CA-125 and miRNAs.
“With diagnostic biomarkers for endometriosis, the estimated one in 10 women affected by the disease could receive a correct diagnosis upon their first appointments with physicians,” Taylor said in a press release. In addition to being the chair of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Yale School of Medicine, he is founder and chief medical officer of Dot Laboratories.
Endometriosis is a chronic systemic disease, or one that affects either a number of organs and tissues or the body as a whole. The hallmarks of the hormone-driven condition include progressive pelvic pain and severe menstrual cramps, or dysmenorrhea.
Six to 10 percent of American women of child-bearing age have the illness, according to estimates. Moreover, researchers say endometriosis is the potential cause of pelvic pain and infertility in 35 to 50 percent of women worldwide who suffer from these symptoms.
The condition can have a huge impact on a woman’s quality of life and can be a financial burden. In fact, the economic impact of the disease can equate to that of chronic diseases, such as diabetes. Experts estimated the diagnosis, treatment and quality of life-related costs of endometriosis at $69 billion in the United States in 2009.
The mechanisms underlying the disease are not yet clear, although several studies have suggested that inflammation and cancer-associated pathways are involved.
A key problem is misdiagnosis of the condition. This occurs in 65 percent of women who have it, according to a study in Human Reproduction. An even grimmer statistic is that 46 percent of women with the condition had to be evaluated by more than five physicians before obtaining a correct diagnosis. This has led to American women waiting an average of 6.7 to 11 years to begin treatment.
Lack of diagnostic tools is a major reason that identifying the disease is difficult and takes so long. Biomarkers for it could lead to earlier diagnosis. They could also help doctors keep tabs on women with no symptoms of endometriosis but who are at risk of developing it.
Researchers hope that identifying new biomarkers will not only help shorten the time to diagnosis, but also pave the way to new therapies.