The Science of Endometriosis and Cytokine Activity

March 5, 2014

Researchers identified a distinctive profile of cytokine activity in women with endometriosis, which could lead to the development of a clinically useful patient stratification system.

Researchers identified a distinctive profile of cytokine activity in women with endometriosis that could be a signature for developing a patient stratification system similar to what is used for breast cancer patients.

The findings are described in a recent issue of Science Translational Medicine and are offered as an early step in trying to better understand the disease. 

Pertinent Points

- Researchers have identified a distinctive profile of cytokine activity in women with endometriosis that could serve as a signature for the disease.

- The aim would be to develop a patient stratification system similar to what is used for breast cancer patients.

- More research is needed.

"This paper isn't to say we discovered the answer. We're trying to start a conversation with a broad translational science community about this because it is such a terrible disease," said Linda G. Griffith, PhD, of the Center for Gynepathology Research at MIT and one of the authors of the paper. "We found something really interesting, but it's only the tip of the iceberg, and if other clinicians are interesting [sic] in setting up a similar study with their patients, we're happy to talk about collaborating with them."

By analyzing peritoneal fluid from 77 patients who reported a wide range of symptom severity from endometriosis, the researchers were able to see the profile of cytokine activity associated with ovarian and rectovaginal lesions. The pattern, which included 13 cytokines, also negatively correlated with fertility, the study reported.

Many of the molecules in the discovered signature are secreted by macrophages, a type of immune cell that acts as a sentinel, the researchers reported.

The analysis suggests there is a clinically relevant inflammatory network that may serve as an objective measure for guiding treatment decisions for endometriosis, as well as potentially providing an endpoint for assessing efficacy of new treatments aimed at the inflammatory mechanisms driving the disease progression, the authors said.

Next, the scientists plan to study tissue from subsets of the patients to further examine those with infertility and women with deeply infiltrating lesions into the colon and other pelvic organs, according to a news release about the study.