Dr Caitlin Filby – endometriosis detection

By Rob Clancy, staff writer

The ultimate goal of this research is to find a safe, reliable and early method of endometriosis detection that avoids the need for surgery.

Dr Caitlin Filby from Hudson Institute, researching ways of finding a safe, reliable and early method of endometriosis detection.
Dr Caitlin Filby

With the average time between symptom onset and diagnosis currently 7-10 years, earlier endometriosis detection is crucial, but so is better care for people living with the condition.

Dr Caitlin Filby is tackling both those challenges with creativity and innovation, and the key lies in something that’s usually disposed of as waste.

Dr Filby believes menstrual fluid could provide much earlier endometriosis detection and diagnosis, and potentially, clues to the best forms of treatment for each sufferer.

She is one of a number of researchers at Hudson Institute who are taking a closer look at menstrual fluid as a valuable tool for diagnosis and treatment testing.

Her research showed that from one period to the next the composition of a woman’s menstrual fluid is relatively stable, allowing them to establish a baseline for testing.

Non-invasive endometriosis detection test

“We would love to be able to offer women a simple and painless menstrual fluid test to confirm their suspicions of endometriosis,” Dr Filby says.

“A non-invasive menstrual fluid test would help uncover the undiagnosed population of women with endometriosis, allowing girls and women to access healthcare early and prevent disease progression.”

Tailored endometriosis treatment

But the benefits of her research don’t stop there – she has teamed up with a world leader in bioengineering, Professor Linda Griffith, to extend her endometrial ’organ-on-a-chip’ using organoids obtained non-invasively from menstrual fluid.

“Endometrial organoids are miniature organs in a dish that model the endometrial tissue that forms endometriosis lesions and so they can help us understand the response of the endometrium to different medications, both existing and new drugs,” she says. 

“Because different women can respond differently to the same treatment, menstrual fluid organoids may allow us to determine a treatment pathway tailored to each woman’s specific symptoms, prior to surgery.”

“They could one day allow women to ‘try before you buy’ – the ability to non-invasively test a range of different medications in a dish in the lab before commencing treatment using the medication most suited to them,” Dr Filby says.

This endometriosis research is supported by The Ritchie Centre human tissue bank – an archival and virtual resource that collects tissue samples with minimal impact on the participants. These samples are well documented, with both participants and surgeons completing a comprehensive endometriosis questionnaire.

Tissues include endometriosis lesions and hysterectomy endometrium, which can be stored for future analysis, or used for generating endometrial epithelial organoids.

All these technologies come together to create a vision of a day – hopefully in the near future – when endometriosis detection is earlier and treatment better.

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