IUD saving fertility for women with cancer

23 Mar 2021

A common intrauterine device (IUD) could help preserve fertility and reduce the need for hysterectomies for women suffering endometrial cancer, according to University of Queensland research.

UQ’s Professor Andreas Obermair, from the Queensland Centre for Gynaecological Cancer Research, said his team had just completed the feMMe study – a phase II randomised trial with 165 endometrial cancer patients from Australia and New Zealand.

“The feMMe study treated women with endometrial cancer less-invasively through the use of a common IUD, reducing the need for surgery and preserving a women’s fertility,” Professor Obermair said.

“The standard treatment for early-stage endometrial cancer is a total hysterectomy, and while surgery is safe and effective for most patients, there are two groups of women who are poorly served with that strategy.

“Those two groups are young women who haven’t completed a family and want to retain their fertility, and women who are quite obese and have a lot of medical illnesses.”

Headshot of Professor Andreas Obermair
Professor Andreas Obermair

Professor Obermair said endometrial cancer was the most common gynaecological cancer in Australia, with approximately 3200 women diagnosed each year, with cases growing as the levels of obesity and ageing increase in Australia.

The results of the feMMe study have provided a boost for young and overweight women who may be eligible for a non-surgical treatment option.

Professor Obermair said 82 per cent of women with a precursor to endometrial cancer called ‘endometrial hyperplasia with atypia’ and 52 per cent of women with endometrial cancer responded to the new non-invasive treatment.

“Importantly, the trial also showed that with weight loss, the new treatment was more successful with a 67 per cent response rate, and side effects were few and far between,” he said.

“The results benefit women who have an unreasonably high risk of complications from endometrial cancer surgery and younger women diagnosed with early stage cancer who wish to retain fertility to complete their families.”

While the results of the trial are positive, Professor Obermair said there was more work to be done.

“We need to focus further research efforts to find parameters that predict response or non-response to that non-invasive treatment,” he said.

The details and results of the feMMe trial were published in Gynaecologic Oncology (DOI:10.1016/j.ygyno.2021.01.029).

Media: Professor Andreas Obermair, a.obermair@uq.edu.au, 3346 6044; Faculty of Medicine Communications, med.media@uq.edu.au, 3365 5118, 0436 368 746.