Uterine fibroid tumors are the most common tumor found in women. Researchers have been trying to figure out how they start and grow. Funding from the National Institutes of Health has led to a Grand Rapids-based collaboration leading to what’s been described as a breakthrough that may lead to better treatments.
Each year in the United States, 600,000 women will have a hysterectomy. Half of those are the result of uterine fibroid tumors. The only cure is the removal of the uterus.
“For some younger women that can be very traumatic because they're giving up their fertility. For older women lot of times it's not that big an issue but they still feel that having a uterus is part of being a woman and there’s a lot of psychological issues associated with that.”
Jose Teixeira is professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. He explains how Spectrum Health collected fibroid tissues samples from a small number of anonymous patients. Those were turned over to Van Andel Institute researchers specializing in what’s known as bioinformatics.
“And look at what might be going on, not at the genetic level because we kind of know what's going on with those genes that get mutated, but at the epigenetic level. What else is going on in those genes that isn't necessarily mutation. What we've found in this study is that the fibroids which are growing these are sort of highly collagenous, it looks like cartilage growing inside muscle. The other tissue that's very close by to the uterus that's a lot of cartilage is the cervix. When we discovered these genes that are associated with the cervical cells were found in the fibroids we immediately thought that perhaps the fibroids are turning into fibroids because they want to be more like cervical cells which is not what they should be.”
NIH is proving a second round of funding allowing for the sampling of 100 women and their DNA.
Patrick Center, WGVU News.