May 5, 2000
Volume XXXIII, No. 18

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Studies on polycystic ovary syndrome are under way at HSC

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

Dr. Angela Thyer, an assistant instructor in the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility in the 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.


Dr. Angela Thyer, obstetrics and gynecology, discusses test results with a patient enrolled in one of two Health Science Center-based studies on treatments for polycystic ovary syndrome.

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.

The condition was identified nearly 75 years ago and a cure has not been discovered. However, the syndrome can be treated. Dr. Thyer's studies are focused on various treatment methods, including medications and diet.

A six-month study will look at 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.

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 years of age, who suffer from symptoms of PCOS, into the study. Participants must have their own form of transportation to get to appointments. Each study will be conducted at the Health Science Center. Individuals participating in the chromium picolinate study will receive $100 in compensation, but no compensation is offered for the metformin/rosiglitazone study. 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.

For more information or to inquire about eligibility for the research studies, call Carann Easton, research coordinator, at ext. 7-5053.

The Frederick C. Bartter General Clinical Research Center, the Endocrine Fellows Foundation, and the Health Science Center's Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology are subsidizing the trials.