Selective progesterone receptor modulator (SPRM) ulipristal acetate (UPA) and its effects on the human endometrium

L.H.R. Whitaker, A.A. Murray, R. Matthews, G. Shaw, A.R.W. Williams, P.T.K. Saunders, H.O.D. Critchley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

STUDY QUESTION: What is the impact of administration of the selective progesterone receptor modulator (SPRM), ulipristal acetate (UPA) on the endometrium of women with fibroids?

SUMMARY ANSWER: UPA administration altered expression of sex-steroid receptors and progesterone-regulated genes and was associated with low levels of glandular and stromal cell proliferation.

WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: Administration of all SPRM class members results in PAEC (progesterone receptor modulator associated endometrial changes). Data on the impact of the SPRM UPA administration on endometrial sex-steroid receptor expression, progesterone (P)-regulated genes and cell proliferation are currently lacking.

STUDY DESIGN SIZE, DURATION: Observational study with histological and molecular analyses to delineate impact of treatment with UPA on endometrium. Endometrial samples (n = 9) were collected at hysterectomy from women aged 39 to 49 with uterine fibroids treated with UPA (oral 5 mg daily) for 9–12 weeks. Control proliferative (n = 9) and secretory (n = 9) endometrium from women aged 38–52 with fibroids were derived from institutional tissue archives.

PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: Study setting was a University Research Institute. Endometrial biopsies were collected with institutional ethical approval and written informed consent. Concentrations of mRNAs encoded by steroid receptors, P-regulated genes and factors in decidualised endometrium were quantified with qRT-PCR. Immunohistochemistry was employed for localization of progesterone (PR, PRB), androgen (AR), estrogen (ERα) receptors and expression of FOXO1, HAND2, HOXA10, PTEN homologue. Endometrial glandular and stromal cell proliferation was objectively quantified using Ki67.

MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: UPA induced morphological changes in endometrial tissue consistent with PAEC. A striking change in expression patterns of PR and AR was detected compared with either proliferative or secretory phase samples. There were significant changes in pattern of expression of mRNAs encoded by IGFBP-1, FOXO1, IL-15, HAND2, IHH and HOXA10 compared with secretory phase samples consistent with low agonist activity in endometrium. Expression of mRNA encoded by FOXM1, a transcription factor implicated in cell cycle progression, was low in UPA-treated samples. Cell proliferation (Ki67 positive nuclei) was lower in samples from women treated with UPA compared with those in the proliferative phase.


LIMITATIONS REASONS FOR CAUTION: A small number of well-characterized patients were studied in-depth. The impacts on morphology, molecular and cellular changes with SPRM, UPA administration on symptom control remains to be determined.

WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: P plays a pivotal role in endometrial function. P-action is mediated through interaction with the PR. These data provide support for onward development of the SPRM class of compounds as effective long-term medical therapy for heavy menstrual bleeding.

STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S): H.O.D.C. received has clinical research support for laboratory consumables and staff from Bayer Pharma Ag and provides consultancy advice (no personal remuneration) for Bayer Pharma Ag, PregLem SA, Gedeon Richter, Vifor Pharma UK Ltd, AbbVie Inc.; A.R.W.W. has received consultancy payments from Bayer, Gedeon Richter, Preglem SA, HRA Pharma; L.H.R.W., A.A.M., R.M., G.S. and P.T.K.S. have no conflicts of interest. Study funded in part from each of: Medical Research Council (G1002033; G1100356/1; MR/N022556/1); National Health Institute for Health Research (12/206/520) and TENOVUS Scotland.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)531-543
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue number3
Early online date27 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017


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