Endometriosis in Hollywood: Amy Schumer’s surgery highlights need for novel therapies

Endometriosis has gained attention in the past several years with celebrities getting candid about their struggles. In September, comedian and actress Amy Schumer shared that she had both her uterus and appendix removed due to endometriosis. Unfortunately, the symptoms of endometriosis are non-specific, varying from case to case and overlapping with other diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). As a result, many women suffer in silence, waiting years before their symptoms are properly addressed. The number of women affected by endometriosis could be as high as 10% globally, although exact numbers are difficult to ascertain, given how many women are undiagnosed, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Sarah Bundra, Pharmaceutical Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “There are many therapies available for the treatment of endometriosis-associated pain, ranging from gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists to antagonists to oral contraceptives. However, the efficacy of these medications is lacking – for example, in Schumer’s case, she had difficult and extensive surgery. The safety profile often limits long-term use of endometriosis medications, as serious side effects such as bone mineral density (BMD) loss may occur. An endometriosis therapy with high efficacy and safety is much needed.”

The exact cause of endometriosis is not well understood. Anatomical, hormonal, immunological, estrogenic, genetic, epigenetic and environmental factors have all been cited as potential causes. Risk factors include starting periods at an early age, short menstrual cycles, long duration of menstrual flow, heavy bleeding during menstruation, delayed childbearing and family history of endometriosis. With so many potential sources of the disease, capturing and treating cases is not easy. Dr. Thomas Tapmeier and his team at Oxford’s Endometriosis CaRe Center have announced their discovery linking the NPSR1 gene with endometriosis-associated pain.

Bundra continues: “The multifactorial etiology of endometriosis makes treating cases difficult. If researchers are able to uncover a definitive genetic link with the indication, then cases can be caught earlier, decreasing the delay from symptom onset to treatment.”

Schumer’s difficult and extensive surgery acts as a reminder of the gap in endometriosis treatment and patient need. GlobalData interviewed a key opinion leader (KOL) in the endometriosis field in the US, who stated that potential genetic testing in endometriosis families to see who is at risk would help catch cases, thereby decreasing the time from symptom onset to diagnosis.

Bundra adds: “Rather than waiting to see if a woman develops the indication, physicians would be able to utilize genetic testing to preemptively diagnose patients and begin treatment earlier. This is one of many potential solutions that should be further explored to provide necessary treatment and diagnoses for women affected by endometriosis.”

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