Study shows new treatment method for ectopic pregnancy could help to preserve women’s fertility

Researchers at The University of Edinburgh and researchers The University of Melbourne have undertaken a joint study and found that prescribing the lung cancer drug gefitinib in addition to the current drug methotrexate is more effective at helping treat an ectopic pregnancy than the conventional drug alone and could therefore reduce the need to remove the fallopian tube in a significant number of cases.

The study, published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynaecology, involved a trial of 12 women with ectopic pregnancies. Researchers now plan to run a larger trial.

When an ectopic pregnancy is diagnosed early enough, patients have the option of being treated with medical management, being prescribed the drug methotrexate, rather than undergoing surgery. Differing studies suggest this method successfully treats ectopic pregnancies in 65-95% of cases but researchers led by EPT Trustee Dr Andrew Horne at the University of Edinburgh and Dr Stephen Tong at the University of Melbourne have shown, in a study published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynaecology, that also prescribing gefitinib to block a protein found to be present in high levels at the site of ectopic pregnancies, increases the effectiveness of treatment time above the use of methotrexate alone and means that fewer women need to undergo surgery to remove the fallopian tube. They now intend to run a larger trial.

Dr Andrew Horne, of the University of Edinburgh’s Medical Research Council Centre for Reproductive Health, said:

“An ectopic pregnancy can be extremely stressful for the woman involved. If we can reduce the need for surgery, and thereby help fertility levels, then that would be an enormous benefit. Reducing the treatment time for women who do not need surgery would also have a significant impact in reducing the emotional stress of such a diagnosis.”

The Ectopic Pregnancy Trust Chairman, Alex Peace-Gadsby, who underwent emergency surgery for a misdiagnosed ectopic pregnancy herself said: “This is wonderful news for ectopic pregnancy sufferers. Ectopic pregnancy is both physically and emotionally traumatic and women and their families have to come to terms with the loss of a baby, undergoing invasive surgery, often facing their own mortality and the loss of part of their fertility all in a single experience. If this can provide women with more treatment options and reduce their physical trauma, which in turn will lessen the emotional impact they must suffer, then further study is applauded”.