New Studies Examine Treatments, Causes and Risks for Women with PCOS

June 22, 2006

New research presented today on treatments, causes and risks associated with Polycistic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a disease that effects between five and 10 percent of reproductive aged women, offers a glimmer of hope to the millions of women who suffer from the painful and debilitating disease.

Toronto, Canada, June 21, 2000- New research presented today on treatments, causes and risks associated with Polycistic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a disease that effects between five and 10 percent of reproductive aged women, offers a glimmer of hope to the millions of women who suffer from the painful and debilitating disease. The research was presented today in a panel at ENDO 2000, The Endocrine Society's 82nd Annual Meeting, which is taking place in Toronto from June 21-24. The new studies examine several areas of PCOS, including a possible gene that triggers PCOS, new treatments for the disease, the relationship between diet and PCOS and the risk of heart disease in women with PCOS.

Two of the studies that were presented examined new treatments for women with PCOS. A study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston found that women with PCOS who reduced their dietary fat might improve some of their reproductive parameters. Another study of adolescent girls with PCOS found that treatment with metformin, a medicine that decreases the body's requirement for insulin, improves irregular or absent periods, a symptom of PCOS in young girls; lessens body hair and acne; and promotes weight loss.

"We have shown that metformin, which is typically a diabetes treatment, is effective in treating young women with PCOS," said Dr. Michael Gottschalk, an endocrinologist at the University of California, San Diego who presented the research on metformin. "The new information that is presented today will help improve the quality of life for the women throughout the world who suffer from this disease."

Dr. Walter Futterweit, OBGYN.net Editorial Advisor and Dr.Yaron Tomer, endocrinologists at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, presented a study that found an association between a marker near the insulin receptor gene and PCOS. Previous research has found that PCOS is hereditary. The new research discovered evidence that the insulin receptor gene, or a nearby gene, may cause the tendency for women to inherit PCOS. Additionally, the research suggests that the inheritance of PCOS is caused by subtle changes in the insulin receptor gene, which may alter its function in the ovaries.

"We hope that these findings will enable us to better understand the mechanisms leading to PCOS," said Dr. Futterweit. "This type of research will ultimately lead to better diagnosis and treatment for women with PCOS."

Two of the other studies examined risk factors for women with PCOS, including insulin resistance and heart disease. One study, which was presented by Dr. David Ehrmann, an endocrinologist at the University of Chicago, found that women with PCOS function near their maximum ability to secrete insulin in response to glucose. According to this new research, any further reductions in insulin sensitivity would be met with inadequate compensation in insulin secretion.

Dr. Rose Christian, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic, reported on additional research that points to an increased risk of coronary heart disease for women with PCOS.

"Our research discovered that coronary artery calcium, a marker for atherosclerosis, is more common and extensive in women with PCOS than in ovulatory women of similar age, weight and risk factors," said Dr. Christian.

"PCOS is a common yet, silent disease that affects thousands of women," said Dr. Lisa Fish, an endocrinologist at Park Nicollett Medical Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. "These studies provide new options to women with PCOS in treating their illness and also offer new information on risks that are associated with the it, such as heart disease. In addition, this research looks into the genes that may cause PCOS and its relationship to diabetes."

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Based in Bethesda, Maryland, The Endocrine Society consists of over 9,000 scientists and physicians in more than 80 countries. Founded in 1916, The Endocrine Society is the world's oldest, largest, and most active organization devoted to research on hormones, and the clinical practice of endocrinology. Together, these physicians, scientists, educators, nurses, and students who make up the organization's membership, represent all basic, applied, and clinical interests in endocrinology. To learn more about The Endocrine Society, and the field of endocrinology, visit our web site at http://www.endo-society.org.