A new study has suggested that intrauterine devices, originally developed as contraceptives, can also be used to treat and cure cancer of the endometrium.
The finding opens the way for young women with the disease, which affects the lining of the womb, to be treated without the need for a hysterectomy, which leads to the end of fertility, thus preserving their fertility until they have had all the children they want.
A team of researchers in Italy has conducted the first prospective clinical trial to see whether an intrauterine device (IUD) releasing the progestin hormone levonorgestrel combined with a monthly injection of gonadotropin-releasing hormone for six months could halt and reverse the cancer`s growth in women aged 40 or younger.
Between 1996 and 2009, 39 patients, aged between 20 and 40, were treated at the European Institute of Oncology in Milan, with results from a total of 34 being available for analysis in this paper.
The IUD was left in place for a year, and then, as long as the cancer had not continued to grow or had recurred, it was removed, enabling the women to plan for pregnancies.
Once the women had completed their desired number of pregnancies, they had hysterectomies in order to ensure the cancer was unable to recur in the longer term.
"The results of this trial give encouragement for starting a multi-centre, international trial in order to elucidate the best approach for women with endometrial cancers who wish to become pregnant. We need to know which option of treatment is better in terms of efficacy and adverse effects," said Lucas Minig, one of the authors of the study.
The new research is published online in the cancer journal, Annals of Oncology.