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Case study: Lorraine takes part in drug trial to treat ectopic pregnancy

Lorraine Walters of Winslow, Buckinghamshire, participated in a drug study at Aylesbury's Stoke Mandeville Hospital after she was diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy.

This is when a fertilised egg implants itself outside of the womb, usually in one of the fallopian tubes. There is no chance of this pregnancy surviving and it can be life threatening if left untreated.

If detected early, a single dose of drug methotrexate is given. However, if this does not terminate the pregnancy within two weeks, another dose or surgery may be needed.

In the GEM3 study, lung cancer drug gefitinib is taken alongside methotrexate to see if this can stop an ectopic pregnancy developing without surgery or further medication.

Miss Walters was admitted to a hospital ward for sepsis (blood poisoning) and was given a blood test which revealed the ectopic pregnancy.

After her sepsis was treated with antibiotics, Miss Walters was discharged to the hospital’s maternity ward, where she was told about the study from a research midwife.

She said: “I was told I could either take part in a new drug trial or have surgery. The new drug sounded like it would get everything over with quicker in the least invasive way possible, so I thought it was a great idea.

“I’m quite a helper. If something good can come out of something bad and help more people, it’s a great thing to do."

Women being treated with methotrexate are invited to take part in the study and are given seven tablets of gefitinib or a placebo (dummy drug) to take daily. Neither researchers nor participants are told which they are getting, so they can be compared without bias.

Miss Walters’ pregnancy ended two weeks after enrolling on the trial, without the need for surgery or further drug treatments.

The mother-of-two, who was eight weeks pregnant at the time of her diagnosis, said: “I feel very lucky, fortunate and humbled my diagnosis and treatment happened when they did and that I’m okay.”