Dr Sarah Holdsworth-Carson leads the research program at the Julia Argyrou Endometriosis Centre at Epworth and recently returned from the 15th World Congress on Endometriosis.
The global endometriosis community gathered in Scotland in May 2023 for the congress, and Sarah is keenly sharing her insights so you can learn more about the research presented.
What did it mean to you to attend the 15th World Congress on Endometriosis?
It was a fantastic opportunity to be among like-minded people, who are all working towards the same goal to improve the lives of people living with endometriosis, perhaps even find a cure!
Although we have a long way to go, relative to other common diseases like diabetes and breast cancer, awareness around endometriosis is increasing. A positive outcome of increased awareness is the ripple effect of increased research, not only nationally but internationally. The congress had representatives from 53 different countries in attendance.
We should be proud that Australian researchers had a strong presence at the congress. One of the most interesting sessions I attended focused on digital health. Our very own Dr Samantha Mooney, JAECE interim director, showcased her preliminary research trialling a phone app to collect longitudinal data on people with severe endometriosis and their pregnancy outcomes.
What stood out to you?
Endometriosis is a complex disease and it was excellent to see researchers incorporating the various types (phenotypes) of endometriosis into their studies. For example, stratifying for superficial or deep disease or ovarian lesions, and controlling for the diversity in symptom phenotypes such as type of pain experienced or fertility challenges.
Finally, the message that endometriosis is a complex and heterogenous disease appears to have been acknowledged.
Studies controlling for such diversity are welcome as they will start to unravel the cause of the disease.
At the molecular level, this was also prolific with many projects employing single cell technologies to better understand the different roles and functions of individual cells (for example, epithelial cells) from lesions and endometrium in the development and progression of disease.
Can you give us a glimpse of new research happening internationally?
From overseas, we saw presentations about exciting phone apps using ‘big data’ approaches, machine learning and linked data registries in Hungary, that are hoped to be used in the early detection of endometriosis.
There was an interesting and encouraging Canadian presentation describing a self-assessment tool (or ‘tampon test’ using a vaginal insert) for deep dyspareunia (pain during or after sex).
The gut microbiome was a hot topic, with evidence from mouse models linking visceral pain, female sex hormones and the gut microbiota in a study from Ireland.
From the United States, we heard about clinical trials using combination therapy that shows promise in reducing endometriosis-associated pain and improvement to quality of life measures.
The next World Congress on Endo is being held in Australia in 2025 – are you looking forward to it?
My hope is the Julia Argyrou Endometriosis Centre will be able to showcase its diverse and extensive research portfolio in Sydney. We are eagerly awaiting 2025!
22 May 2023