Endometriosis Australia’s Chair, Dr Karen Luxford, said: “The calibre of applications for the grant this year was incredibly high.” Endometriosis Australia is pleased to announce the four winning projects for the 2020 Research Grant are across a variety of categories; Medical/Surgical, Allied & Educational/ Support and Basic Science.
As we don’t know what causes it and have no way to prevent it, these researchers are giving hope to the 830,000 Australians that are affected by this disease.
Endometriosis Australia is the only charity in this space allocating investment towards endometriosis research solely through the generosity of our donors and fundraisers.
Endometriosis occurs when tissue that is similar to the lining of the womb grows in other parts of the body, causing pain, infertility. 11.4% of women and those that identify as gender diverse have endometriosis, with the disease often starting in teenagers. Symptoms are variable, and this may contribute to the, on average, six and a half year delay in diagnosis.
Endometriosis Australia is a nationally accredited charity that endeavours to increase recognition of endometriosis, provide endometriosis education programs, and provide funding for endometriosis research
Non-invasive endometriosis diagnosis using machine learning
Associate Professor Louise Hull
This project uses machine learning technology to identify markers in specialist endometriosis ultrasound and MRI scans that can determine the likelihood of having endometriosis at surgery. We intend to use our findings to develop a non-invasive test that can help doctors provide women with an accurate and timely diagnosis of endometriosis. This will create a better acknowledgement of why someone suffers pelvic pain and how they can be best helped with early initiation of preventative and therapeutic treatments.
Associate Professor M. Louise Hull is a gynaecologist and biomedical scientist, who leads the Endometriosis Research Group at the Robinson Research Institute, University of Adelaide. Her group is internationally recognised for exploring the biological basis of endometriosis in order to develop new diagnostic tests and therapeutics. She clinically translates new endometriosis medical breakthroughs in clinical trials. Her recent projects include co-creating a national digital platform for endometriosis with the Australian Endometriosis Societies and developing better imaging tests for endometriosis using machine learning. Louise is an international ambassador for the World Endometriosis Society and sat on the National Endometriosis Action Plan Round Table. She supervises Ph.D. students and teaches medical students, O and G registrars and fertility sub-specialists. Associate Professor Hull founded the Embrace Fertility IVF unit and works at Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide seeing clients with endometriosis, fertility problems and recurrent miscarriage.
Professor Kerry Sherman
With 1 in 9 Australians of childbearing age living with the wide-ranging adverse impacts of endometriosis, this study aims to co-design and pilot a lifestyle-focused text message program (ENDOTEXT) to enhance the mental and physical health of those living with this condition. Text messages are a convenient and efficient means of providing much needed health education and support to people living with endometriosis. This co-designed text messaging intervention aims to provide evidence-based information about endometriosis management, healthy lifestyle behaviours (e.g., exercise, diet) and mental health support.
Professor Kerry Sherman is Deputy Head of the Department of Psychology and a member of the Centre for Emotional Health, Macquarie University. She is a health psychologist with more than 20 years’ experience researching psychological aspects of women’s health, particularly in the psychosocial management of chronic conditions (e.g., breast cancer, lymphoedema, endometriosis). Her research is motivated by developing, evaluating and implementing clinical health psychology interventions into practice to provide support for people living with these conditions. She is currently leading longitudinal research that is investigating aspects of psychological distress in people with endometriosis and is a member of the NECST Committee for Patient Reported Outcomes. Kerry’s contributions to health psychology and behavioural medicine have been recognised internationally through a 2018 Distinguished Career Contribution Award from the International Society of Behavioural Medicine (ISBM), a 2014 American Psychological Association (Health Psychology) Distinguished International Affiliate Award, and most recently, being elected a Fellow of the US-based Society of Behavioural Medicine in 2020.
Urinary Bio Markers
Dr Christine Duong
Endometriosis is a debilitating disease which is common within our community. Currently, the gold standard for diagnosis is laparoscopy, however, this is an invasive procedure which comes with surgical risks. We hope to find a urinary biomarker which can diagnose endometriosis without needing to perform surgery. We have identified 3 novel proteins found in the urine of those with endometriosis, we hope to further validate this finding to a larger cohort to prove there is a urinary biomarker for the diagnosis of endometriosis. We plan on performing this study at Royal Prince Alfred and Canterbury hospital in Sydney. We will collect urine from women and those that identify as gender diverse with and without endometriosis and perform a western blot analysis to identify these proteins. We hope to find the proteins present in those with endometriosis and absent in those without endometriosis.
Dr Christine Duong is a RANZCOG trainee currently undertaking her training in the Sydney local health district, which includes Royal Prince Alfred hospital and Canterbury hospital. She is passionate about endometriosis and finding a non-invasive test for diagnosing the disease. She attended MLC school and graduated in 2002. She studied pharmacy as an undergraduate degree and went on to study medicine, graduated from Sydney University with Honours in 2011.
Identifying the inflammatory mediators secreted by the endometrium of those with endometriosis
Dr. Joel Castro Kraftchenko
Dr. Joel Castro Kraftchenko is Head of Endometriosis Pain Research in the Visceral Pain Research Group, Flinders University based at SAHMRI, SA. He is an expert in the field of visceral nociception and pain with more than 45 publication in prominent scientific journals. Dr Castro’s research focuses on understanding the mechanisms by which patients with inflammatory diseases, such as endometriosis and irritable bowel syndrome patients (IBS), suffer chronic pelvic pain. Dr Castro’s work is engaged in the development of new strategies to treat the intolerable chronic pelvic pain suffered by patients with endometriosis. He received an Ideas grant (2020-2023) from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to investigate the pathophysiology of chronic pelvic pain associated with endometriosis and related visceral comorbidities.
Endometriosis is a chronic painful disorder affecting ~10% of females worldwide, costing Australia >$8 billion/year. The underlying mechanisms of chronic pelvic pain associated with endometriosis are poorly understood, with no efficacious treatment to the date. This project focuses in identify an array of inflammatory mediators secreted from endometrial explants obtained from those with endometriosis; and to determine whether they can selectively activate and/or sensitise sensory neurons innervating the mouse viscera; which will ultimately translate into diffuse chronic pelvic pain, dysmenorrhea, and dyspareunia. The findings from this project will provide novel therapeutics targets and ultimately improve endo patients quality of life.