Researchers have identified genetic differences that may explain why black women are 4 times more likely than other women to develop uterine fibroid tumors. The investigators hope that this information may lead to new nonsurgical treatments for these benign tumors. The results of the study appear in the February 2006 issue of the Journal of the Society for Gynecologic Investigation.
The study included 328 women; 186 had fibroid tumors, and 142 did not. The researchers examined the frequency of a genetic alteration in the catechol- O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene in the women. The COMT gene plays a key role in the metabolism of estrogen, and women with high-activity COMT are more likely to have fibroid tumors. The researchers found that 47% of black women had high-activity COMT, compared with 30% of Hispanic women and 19% of white women.
The researchers also found that COMT-inhibiting drugs decreased the activity of certain estrogen-dependent genes. This action caused the fibroid cells to stop growing and eventually die. They hope that this research can lead to the development of a drug treatment for fibroid tumors.