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Studies on polycystic ovary syndrome under way at Health Science Center (6-15-00)

New therapies under study at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio may relieve the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a condition that affects an estimated 5 percent to 10 percent of all women.

Angela Thyer, M.D., assistant instructor in the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility in UTHSC’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, is the principal investigator on two studies dealing with possible treatments for the syndrome. Participants are needed for both of the Health Science Center-based trials. A third study, launching this fall, will compare a low-fat diet vs. a low-carbohydrate diet in women with PCOS. Recruitment is under way for that study, as well.

PCOS, also known as Stein-Leventhal Syndrome, is one of the leading causes of infertility in women, but it affects more than reproduction. Symptoms vary but usually include at least two of the following signs: irregular or absent menstrual periods, excess hair on the face and body, obesity, acne, elevated insulin levels, dark patches in the skin folds around the inner thighs or neck, or numerous cysts on the ovaries.

Women are being recruited for a six-month study of the influence of the insulin-sensitizing drugs metformin (Glucophage®) and rosiglitazone (Avandia®) on ovulation rates. Data on metformin have shown evidence of success in increasing ovulation and regulating the menstrual cycle.

"We’ve had a number of pregnancies among women in a preliminary study using metformin and we’ve just had the first pregnancy in our current study comparing metformin, rosiglitazone and placebo," Dr. Thyer said.

A second study that is expected to last three months will focus on chromium picolinate, an essential element that plays a role in glucose and insulin metabolism. Dr. Thyer will study the effects of the element on menstrual cycles, insulin sensitivity and ovulation rates.

Without treatment, women who have PCOS may develop more serious conditions. "Up to 20 percent of women with PCOS in their 20s and 30s have undiagnosed diabetes," said Dr. Thyer. "Other long-term health consequences for women who go untreated include an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, endometrial cancer and lipid disorders with advancing age."

Dr. Thyer invites women 18 to 39 who suffer from symptoms of PCOS to inquire about the three studies. Participants must have their own form of transportation to get to appointments. Individuals participating in the chromium picolinate study will receive $100 in compensation, but no compensation is offered for the metformin/rosiglitazone or diet studies. A majority of the medicines are provided, but patients will have to pay a small amount out of pocket. Physician visits are free and patients will be closely monitored and tested monthly.

Women interested in the diet study must be overweight. For the other studies, women of all weights are invited to apply for eligibility.

For more information or to inquire about eligibility for any of the studies, call Carann Easton, research coordinator, at 210-567-5053.

Reporters: Interviews with Dr. Thyer and study participants are available.

Contact: Will Sansom or Heather Feldman