BETTER UNDERSTANDING: Endometriosis research scientist, Professor Grant Montgomery.
BETTER UNDERSTANDING: Endometriosis research scientist, Professor Grant Montgomery. Anjanette Webb

Search continues for cure for endometriosis

IT AFFECTS 10 per cent of Australian women and costs the economy $7.4billion every year in lost productivity according to a recent Ernst and Young study, but the search for a cure for endometriosis remains a clinical challenge.

For 68-year-old Judith Perryn, who first experienced symptoms at age 12, searching for a cure has been a lifetime task.

It even earned her an OAM in 2001 for service to the development of public health awareness and education through the Endometriosis Association of Queensland.

"When I was first diagnosed, I had to go to the library and look it up in medical textbooks to find out anything. Now people at least know the word, endometriosis,” Judith said.

Despite looking healthy, she was in a constant state of excruciating pain and endured a range of surgeries, treatments and medications.

"Until we find a cure, everything is just a band-aid of treating the symptoms, and they have been doing the same thing for 30 years,” Judith said.

Professor Grant Montgomery of The University of Queensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience is leading the charge in endometriosis research in Australia to help women like Judith.

He is currently exploring whether there could be sub-types of endometriosis, similar to many cancers, requiring different treatment options.

His team's research has identified the genetic risk factors and is looking at how previous cancer genomic studies can be applied to better understand the disease.

"We don't know if there are sub-types of endometriosis. However, we are currently working to understand this, as this could potentially mean endometriosis is treated differently based on the type, as is done with some tumours such as in breast cancer,” Prof Montgomery said.

"Because we don't know the cause of endometriosis, current treatment is only treating symptoms but not the cause, which means treatment is not effective in all cases.

"Over the next five years of our research program, we will be moving towards a translational focus to understand if there are sub-types of the disease and various treatments, as well as understanding some of the cell biology in the initiation of the disease, building on our previous genetic and genomic studies to hopefully find better treatments.”

Although the causes of endometriosis still remain unclear and treatment is still a major clinical challenge, current research is helping improve diagnosis and treatment for women.

Info and donations: endometriosis- researchimber.

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