How an anti-diabetes drug and an IUD are helping some women with endometrial cancer avoid surgery

It seems ironic that a simple device used to prevent pregnancy – the IUD – is now being used to treat early endometrial cancer, helping some women preserve their fertility. For young women and women who shouldn’t have a hysterectomy, the feMMe research trial offers a new alternative to radical surgery. How is this possible?

Endometrial cancer is the most common gynaecological cancer in Australia. Over 2,200 women are diagnosed with it each year. For some women, such as those with morbid obesity or heart disease, the standard treatment – a total hysterectomy – is unsafe. Younger women, diagnosed with endometrial cancer before they have had the opportunity to have children, face the prospect of losing their fertility. Now there is hope of a new ‘standard’ treatment option for these women.  

The feMMe trial aims to treat women with early stage endometrial cancer from the inside. Doctors insert the Mirena, an intra-uterine device (IUD) loaded with progestins, into the affected women’s uterus. One third of patients will only have the IUD; another one third will also take Metformin – the most widely used anti-diabetes drug and possibly a powerful anti-cancer drug too; and another one third are offered a Weight Watchers program free of charge to lose weight. This treats the endometrial cancer without radical surgery and keeps reproductive organs intact. 

While early results from the study are promising, formal results are not expected until the early 2020s. In the meantime, if you or someone you know may benefit from this trial, we encourage you to visit our website for further details.

If you would like to help support research trials like feMMe by making a donation to QCGC Research, please click here or contact Lisa Harrold via email or phone (07) 3646 5486.

Last updated:
21 February 2017