New Treatments on the Horizon
GnRH antagonists are drugs that bind to GnRH receptors and prevent them from being activated. This completely blocks the release of the hormones LH and FSH which, in turn, stops ovulation and reduces estrogen and progesterone levels. The initial hormone stimulation or flare-up seen with GnRH agonist therapy does not occur following the use of GnRH antagonists. Since there would be no initial surge in symptoms, endometriosis patients with pain should have a quicker response to therapy. The two GnRH antagonists that are currently under investigation include: Cetrorelix (currently undergoing a multi-center phase 3 clinical trial) and Ganirelix (investigation has been postponed pending the outcome of a patent litigation). While symptom relief may occur sooner than with GnRH-agonists, the overall degree of pain relief is likely to be equivalent.
Recently, investigators have also begun to study how the immune system might contribute to endometriosis. Some researchers believe that an abnormal immune response may make certain women more susceptible to endometriosis. Numerous immune therapies have been proposed that aim to prevent the development of these lesions. Early data indicates that immune therapy with drugs like interferon may, in fact, suppress endometriosis.
There is growing evidence that endometriosis is a genetic disease. A study is underway to identify the inherited factors that increase the chances that a woman will suffer from endometriosis. The results of the study may: (1) help advance research into why women get endometriosis, (2) lead to the discovery of more effective drugs to treat endometriosis, and (3) lead to the discovery of new classes of drug to prevent the disease from occurring in the first place.