A lot happened in 2018. New studies, treatments, laws, discoveries and breakthroughs. Women’s health is constantly changing and evolving. Every day scientists move closer to discovering new treatments to benefit and improve women’s lives.
“The science of today is the technology of tomorrow.” – Edward Teller
We’ve put together a list of the top 4 treatments that changed women’s health in 2018. (Hint: you may not have heard of every treatment). Check them out!
1. The first FDA-approved birth control app: Natural Cycles
You’ve probably heard of the “rhythm” method of birth control—avoiding your most fertile days so you don’t get pregnant. Now there’s an app for that!
The Natural Cycles app has brought the rhythm method into the 21st century. It works by helping women chart their cycles with symptoms such as cervical mucus and temperature readings (basal body temperature) on an app. This app predicts menstrual cycles rather accurately.
While there are many apps like this, Natural Cycles is the world leader as it was approved in Europe in 2017 and cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in August 2018 as a method of contraception.
“The clearance was granted based on the evidence provided in prospective clinical studies based on real-world data from 15,570 women, in which Natural Cycles was shown to be 93 percent effective with typical use,” Natural Cycles founder and CTO, Dr. Elina Berglund Scherwitzl, told NBC News.
While the pill is 98% effective and the IUD 99% effective, this app gives women have another option that is non-invasive, doesn’t require a medication, and doesn’t’ have any side effects. (Pretty cool, right?)
2. Breast cancer patients may be able to forgo chemotherapy
Chemotherapy may save lives, but this treatment also comes with many serious (and painful sides effects) including: hair loss, dry skin, sores, fertility issues, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and more.
What if some breast cancer patients didn’t have to use chemo?
An international study called TailorX found an alternative to chemo by using gene tests on tumors to identify women who may forgo chemotherapy. Instead, these women (who meet the criteria) can take a drug that stops or blocks their bodies from producing estrogen.
This drug would be part of endocrine therapy and patients would take tamoxifen or another hormone-blocking drug to lower the risk of new breast tumors and relapse according to the New York Times.
“We can spare thousands and thousands of women from getting toxic treatment that really wouldn’t benefit them,” Dr. Ingrid A. Mayer, from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, an author of the study, told the New York Times.
This study will affect specific breast cancer patients with the following attributes:
- Early-stage breast tumors measuring one to five centimeters
- No cancer in the lymph nodes
- Sensitive to estrogen
- Patients who test negative for a protein called HER2
- Patients who score a 11 to 25 on a gene test that measures gene activity involved in cancer relapse.
“This is very powerful. It really changes the standard of care,” said Dr. Mayer.
To read more about this study, you can view the published version here: New England Journal of Medicine.
3. The FDA protected women from vaginal devices without significant clinical evidence
Okay, we know this seems like the opposite of groundbreaking, but when the FDA sent warning letters to companies offering treatments without enough clinical research, this changed women’s health in 2018. By setting the bar high, the FDA is protecting women from devices that have not been thoroughly researched.
These companies were offering vaginal rejuvenation treatments for women, but without conducting any/enough clinical research. (Would you want someone treating your vagina with a device that hasn’t been properly tested?)
As stated on their website, the primary purpose of the FDA is to protect the public by providing access to safe and effective medical products and by protecting them from harmful products and deceptive medical claims.
By releasing a public statement about these warning letters (read them here) the FDA is doing a good and proper thing: protecting women.
(P.S. Viveve was not one of the companies called out by the FDA. If you’re interested in our clinical trial progress, visit clinicaltrials.gov.)
4. The first birth of a baby born from a uterus transplant
One little detail about this breakthrough: this uterus came from a deceased woman.
(Yes, we know that feels a little creepy, but we are already using cadaver bones, tissues, corneas and heart valves, so why not use the uterus?)
One other detail: technically this birth occurred at the very end of 2017, but the study was not published until December 2018.
In São Paulo, Brazil, a 32-year-old woman gave birth using the world’s first uterus transplanted from a deceased donor. This woman who gave birth was born without a uterus. The team that led the transplant used modified protocol from a hospital in Sweden, who had performed the first uterine transplanted from a live donor, according to CNN.
“The results provide proof-of-concept for a new treatment option for absolute uterine factor infertility,” wrote Dr. Dani Ejzenberg, an OBGYN at the University of Sao Paulo and Hospital das Clínicas in Brazil, and Dr. Wellington Andraus, a transplant surgeon at the Sao Paulo University School of Medicine in the study.
Read more about the study on the first baby born via cadaver transplant here.
Tying it all together
These groundbreaking treatments are just some of the amazing discoveries that happen every year in women’s health. One thing each treatment has in common is their consistent, clinically-proven and carefully researched outcomes.
Any new drug, treatment, therapy or device must be proven to be safe and effective.
Here’s to being thankful for the FDA and other governing bodies that protect us, and here’s to a happy 2019 with many more life-changing treatments for women!