UK trial of potential new endometriosis treatment offers hope to millions of women - new treatment in 40 years

Researchers in England and Scotland have been awarded money by Wellbeing of Women and the Scottish Government to investigate new endometriosis treatment

A clinical trial for a potential new treatment for endometriosis is set to go ahead in the UK thanks to funding from a partnership between leading women’s health charity Wellbeing of Women and the Scottish Government.

Researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Birmingham will set up and run the clinical trial titled EPIC2. The trial will involve 100 women with the condition in Edinburgh and London and will investigate whether a drug called dichloroacetate is an effective pain management treatment.

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If the trial is successful, the drug could be the first ever non-hormonal and non-surgical treatment for endometriosis. It would be the first new treatment in 40 years.

The EPIC2 research team will build on this knowledge with their clinical trial to determine the optimum dose of dichloroacetate that will provide the most benefit, both in terms of tackling painful endometriosis symptoms and limiting side-effects.

The EPIC2 clinical trial is set to start in autumn 2023 during which half of the women will receive dichloroacetate while the other half will be given a placebo. These will be allocated at random and taken for 12 weeks.

Endometriosis has been at the forefront of the conversation around women’s health due to the lack of accessibility in treatment and actually being diagnosed with the condition leaving many women suffering.

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Dr Lucy Whitaker, Wellbeing of Women researcher and Clinical Lecturer in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at The MRC Centre for Reproductive Health, University of Edinburgh, is leading the research. She said: “We’re grateful to Wellbeing of Women and the Scottish Government for giving us the opportunity to progress our research and hopefully move another step closer to the reality of a new, non-hormonal and non-invasive endometriosis treatment.

“We know women with endometriosis desperately want more treatment options and better ways to manage the often-debilitating pain that it causes. Our research so far shows promising results that dichloroacetate can make a huge difference. I hope our new trial will confirm this and give women hope that new treatments and a better quality of life are on the horizon.”

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Maree Todd, Women’s Health Minister for Scotland, said:“Scotland is the first country in the UK to introduce a Women’s Health Plan, with endometriosis being one of its early priorities. The Plan includes several actions to help improve care and support for those with endometriosis, including a vital action to invest in further research to develop much needed improvements into treatment and management options for the condition.

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis affects 1.5 million women and those assigned female at birth in the UK. It occurs when tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows elsewhere in the body, most commonly in the pelvic area. This tissue, known as endometriosis lesions, bleeds during a period but has nowhere to go. This causes inflammation, pain and the formation of scar tissue.

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