A New Approach to Treating Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Millions of women around the world are affected by PCOS, a hormonal disorder that is largely underdiagnosed. Causing very individual physical and psychological symptoms, there is currently no treatment that allows for a comprehensive control of the various signs. An innovative research approach could potentially be a new ray of hope for the patients affected.
What is PCOS?
PCOS stands for polycystic ovary syndrome and occurs in one of ten women. It is usually first diagnosed in a woman’s late teens, although the initial signs appear even earlier. The affected women typically suffer from two causes: Firstly, the disease often leads to "masculinization" with increased body hair growth, cycle disorders, acne and obesity.
Secondly, affected women can face difficulties with regards to family planning. About three out of four women with PCOS have many small egg follicles in the ovaries - the so-called polycystic ovaries - which give the disease its name. In many patients the follicles do not mature completely due to the increased levels of androgens. As a result, ovulation may not occur. In addition, 80 percent of patients suffer from obesity and more than half are afflicted with insulin resistance which result in high glucose levels. This can contribute to long-term health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, fatty liver disease and arteriosclerosis (the hardening of blood vessels). Next to the physical discomfort, the symptoms often also have severe impact on patient’s minds, leaving many feeling stigmatized.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms vary greatly from woman to woman; however, the following three symptoms are the most prominent in women with PCOS:
- Signs and symptoms of masculanization, e.g. hirsutism, acne, male-pattern hair loss.
- Irregular ovulation and associated cycle disorders in the form of absent or irregular menstrual bleeding.
- Polycystic ovaries, i.e. many small cysts in the area of the ovaries and are found in 80% of PCOS patients.
How to find new treatment options?
The current treatment options are very limited and generally aim at relieving some of the patient’s individual symptoms. For instance, available treatments are trying to address the secondary metabolic diseases such as diabetes, to regulate the menstrual cycle, for example through oral contraceptives, to improve the skin conditions or to reduce excessive body hair growth.
Bayers objective is to tackle the condition more holistically instead of targeting individual symptoms. Therefore, Bayer and Evotec entered into a five year collaboration with the aim to find and develop potential novel treatment options for women with PCOS. Both partners bring in complementary expertise in the areas of reproduction and metabolism and will have access to targets from Celmatix Inc due to the recently formed partnership between Celmatix. and Evotec. Celmatix is the world leader in big data driven target discovery focused on fertility and women’s health. These combined assets lay a promising foundation for research and development activities in the area of PCOS.