There could be a breakthrough in treating the debilitating disorder endometriosis, which affects up to 10 per cent of women.
Researchers at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne have tested close to 4,000 drugs using high test screening.
They found a range of on-the-shelf treatments used for diabetes, heart disease and depression were strong matches for their ability to stop the growth of endometrial cells.
By screening drugs already on the market, the researchers aim to bypass the need for safety trials and fast-track treatments that can stop cells similar to the lining of the uterus grow elsewhere in the body, often causing crippling pain, bloating, scarring and infertility.
Lead researcher Jacqueline Donoghue says they sought a treatment that interfered with oestrogen, the hormone driving the disease, but didn’t affect fertility and could reduce pain.
However given oestrogen was a hormone used throughout the body, they needed to find a drug that could block it specifically in the endometrial tissue.
“This tells us the disease is extremely complex. We’re starting to see that each woman has a disease that is completely unique to her,” she says.
Launceston sufferer Belinda Cohen hopes the treatments will help more than just those with the condition.
"Anything that can help women manage their pain levels and the emotional toll as well, it would just be incredible and it would change so many lives because it impacts partners and their families too," she says.
Ms Cohen was diagnosed at 22 and has since undergone two major surgeries to remove the disease.
Hobart woman Emma Hope was diagnosed with the condition three years ago and says living with endometriosis can affect every aspect of your life.
She hopes this latest finding reduces the physical and emotional toll the disease has on an individual.
"I just think it's incredibly significant to think we can stop that progression because after each removal surgery you do get that relief but then you know it's only a matter of time before it comes back again and then you have to undergo another operation which means more time off work," she says.