Jessica Maddern is researching targeted treatments for Endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a chronic and debilitating condition affecting one in 10 women, often leaving sufferers with debilitating pain and can lead to infertility.
Currently there are no effective treatments to cure this painful condition, but that could all change thanks to a new study led by Research Officer Jessica Maddern, who is part of the Visceral Pain Research Group (Flinders University) based at SAHMRI.
Armed with a PhD Scholarship from The Hospital Research Foundation (THRF), Jessica is seeking to understand exactly how chronic pelvic pain develops in endometriosis which she hopes will lead to targeted new treatments for women.
Endometriosis occurs when tissue grows on the outside of the womb into other parts of the body, forming lesions. These lesions can damage women’s fertility and spread to areas such as the bowel and bladder.
“It takes an average of 10 years before diagnosis and in that time, women endure severe pain, resulting in a poor quality of life and most importantly, it can be silently damaging to fertility,” Jessica said.
“This simply needs to change.”
Alarmingly, 60 per cent of women with endometriosis suffer from chronic pelvic pain but doctors don’t know why the pain occurs. Typical treatments of endometriosis include pain relief like Panadol, hormonal contraceptives, birth control and keyhole surgery, but these are not effective enough.
“The fact is surgery can remove the lesions, but the endometriosis can grow back, meaning the pain can also return,” Jessica said.
“For my research I am looking at the pain experience of women, for example women can have pain that’s not just menstrual cycle pain, it can also be bladder, vaginal or diffuse (widespread) pain caused by this disease.
“If we can understand the physiological changes in women with endometriosis that causes pain in other areas then we can develop targeted treatment methods for women.”
Jessica will be analysing samples taken from endometriosis patients with the disease to hopefully identify key pain signalling pathways from the uterus and vagina to understand how they are altered in endometriosis.
“If we can further understand the complexities of this disease, then we can hopefully develop an effective treatment that will stop women from experiencing pain and enjoy a better quality of life,” Jessica said.
“The support from THRF donors has made an incredible difference, especially as a mum returning to study; it’s an amazing opportunity.
“I hope that my research will lead to better treatment options for women.”