UNC OB-GYN faculty are part of a joint $50,000 NC TraCS grant with the UNC Department of Radiology to test a new, non-invasive approach for identifying endometriosis, an often-painful condition that impacts one-in-10 women.

Investigators on the grant, “Evaluation of Endometriosis with 18F-fluoroestradiol PET / MRI,” from UNC OB-GYN are Erin Carey, MD, MSCR, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and director of the Division of Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery, and Steven Young, MD, PhD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. Investigators from the Department of Radiology are Jorge Oldan, assistant professor, and Yueh Lee, MD, PhD, associate professor.

The award from NCTraCS is part of an NIH Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA). This was among one of 12 grants selected to receive funding this year.

The grant will be used to test the combination of PET (positron emission tomography) scanning and MRI to diagnose and evaluate endometriosis lesions without surgery.

“These types of studies are important because many cases of endometriosis go undiagnosed, or are only diagnosed after many years of delay, because surgery is often necessary for the diagnosis to be made,” says Young. “Furthermore, development of new, non-surgical therapies is difficult because repeat surgeries would be required to adequately evaluate the effects of therapies on endometriosis lesions, rather than symptoms.”

Endometriosis occurs when endometrium, the normal lining tissue of the uterus that provides menstrual flow, spills out through fallopian tubes during menstruation, and attaches to the organs of the pelvis and abdomen. The most common symptoms are progressively more painful periods, pain during sexual intercourse, pain with bowel movements and stomach upset. Infertility and bleeding between periods are also symptoms of endometriosis.

“A noninvasive option to diagnose endometriosis could revolutionize the diagnostic algorithm for women with suspected disease,” says Carey. “If endometriosis was identified through imaging, directed therapy could be started earlier and without the risk of surgical intervention.”