Endometriosis Research

Conducting endometriosis-related research is an important part of the mission of UC San Diego Health System’s Center for Endometriosis Research and Treatment (CERT).

Often undiagnosed, chronic pelvic pain affects one in seven women. Endometriosis is a significant public health problem as it has a huge impact on quality of life for women and their families. It impacts women's emotional well-being, social functioning, energy and employment. It should therefore be a priority clinical and research topic.

Our Goals

The goal of our research is to:

  1. Better understand endometriosis and how it affects women.
  2. Develop and evaluate promising new therapies for endometriosis.

Research Projects

UC San Diego is currently involved with two research projects related to the diagnosis and treatment of endometriosis.

1. Characterization of a Novel Clinical Marker of Endometriosis

Surgery is currently the standard for diagnosing endometriosis. Lack of a less invasive clinical test results in delayed diagnosis (for some women up to 12 years or more). Additionally, the health care costs associated with endometriosis are similar to or greater than other chronic diseases such as Crohn’s disease and diabetes. This is why there is an urgent need to find other safer and less costly diagnostic methods.

Initial findings suggest that the levels of a protein in the blood involved in nerve growth are much higher in women with endometriosis compared to healthy women.

Furthermore, our results show that protein levels are unaffected by the stage of the menstrual cycle and could be related to patient reports of pelvic pain.

Therefore, we suggest that these proteins are potentially important tools in diagnosing endometriosis. We are conducting a pre-clinical discovery phase project to better characterize the levels of this blood protein.

2. Comparison of Contraceptive Options

This study will compare contraceptive options (continuous oral contraceptives and levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine device) in women with presumed endometriosis-related pelvic pain.

If you have painful periods or pelvic pain at other times and would like to hear more about taking part in this study, one of our researchers would be happy to discuss this study with you.

For more information on this study, call 619-940-4377.

Research Summaries: Endometriosis

Director of fertility services at UC San Diego, Sanjay Agarwal, MD, writes summaries of new medical research in the field of endometriosis. These medical studies have been published in medical journals all over the world.

Diagnostic Delay for Endometriosis in Austria and Germany

Causes and Possible Consequences

Prior studies from the U.S. and Europe have indicated that there is roughly an 8- to 12-year delay in the diagnosis of endometriosis.

This study reports similar findings in Germany and Austria, where the delay between the start of symptoms to actual diagnosis is 10.4 years. Both of these countries have well-established and comprehensive health-care systems. This implies that the delay in diagnosis is not merely a result of health-care availability, but linked to other aspects of endometriosis, such as awareness.

One of the major hurdles in the diagnosis and management of endometriosis is the necessity of surgical intervention.

What This Means for You

If you are experiencing symptoms that indicate endometriosis, it’s important that you meet with your doctor as soon as possible.

Endometriosis symptoms include:

  • Bad menstrual pain
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Long-term pain in your pelvis and lower back

Human Reproduction
September 17, 2012
Dr. G. Hudelist (Austria)

Clinical Markers of Endometriosis New

Have We Been Too Quick To Judge?

One of the major challenges of endometriosis is accurately diagnosing the disease.

Despite the risk and cost, surgery remains the gold standard for diagnosing endometriosis. However, surgery is not perfect, and for many reasons, endometriosis may be missed. 

Because of the limitations of surgery, much work is focused on developing alternative methods of diagnosing endometriosis. For example, looking for substances in the blood or urine that are specific to endometriosis (biomarkers). 

We carefully reviewed the world’s highest quality published research papers on endometriosis biomarkers. The studies we found varied widely with regard to how endometriosis is defined, assessment of pain, quality of life, variation with the menstrual cycle, and extent and location of endometriosis documentation.

Because endometriosis is a disease in which there is inflammation, many of the biomarkers assessed thus far are also implicated in other inflammatory conditions (e.g., inflammatory bowel disease). 

The search for a biomarker that is specific to endometriosis and that can be easily detected without surgery continues.  We propose uniform measures for future studies evaluating potential endometriosis biomarkers that will hopefully lead to more consistent results. 

What This Means For You

Although surgery is the currently the best way to diagnose endometriosis, much effort is being made globally to develop new, safer, and cheaper ways of diagnosing endometriosis.

Medical Hypotheses. 2014 Apr;82(4):493-501
Toor K, Wessels JM, Agarwal SK, Leyland N, Foster WG (Canada & USA)

Read the full study on National Institutes of Health.

Make An Appointment

Call 858-657-8745

Our Research Director

Warren Foster, PhD, is a professor in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at McMaster University and the director of CERT research. Dr. Foster's research aims to expand understanding of mechanisms underlying infertility and the affect of certain lifestyle factors on endometrium.

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