Fenretinide: A Potential Treatment for Endometriosis

Mary Ellen Pavone*, Saurabh S. Malpani, Matthew Dyson, J. Julie Kim, Serdar E. Bulun

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Objective: Fenretinide is a synthetic retinoid analogue that promotes apoptosis but has decreased toxicity when compared to other retinoids. We have previously shown that retinoic acid (RA) production in endometriotic tissue is decreased, resulting in reduced estrogen metabolism and apoptotic resistance. We hypothesize fenretinide may induce apoptosis in endometriotic cells and tissues, thereby reducing disease burden. Materials and Methods: Primary endometriotic stromal cells were collected, isolated, cultured, and treated with fenretinide in doses from 0 to 20 μmol/L. Cell count, viability, and immunoblots were performed to examine apoptosis. Quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction from endometriotic cells treated with fenretinide was used to examine expression of genes involved in RA signaling including stimulated by RA 6 (STRA6), cellular RA binding protein 2 (CRABP2), and fatty acid binding protein 5 (FABP5). Endometriotic tissue was xenografted subcutaneously into the flanks of mice which were treated with fenretinide for 2 weeks, after which the mice were killed and lesion volumes calculated. Statistical analysis was performed using t test and analysis of variance. Results: Treatment with fenretinide significantly decreased total cell count (doses 5-20 μL) and viability (doses 10-20 μmol/L). Fenretinide increased protein levels of the apoptotic marker poly (ADP ribose) polymerase (starting at 10 μmol/L) and decreased proliferation marker proliferating cell nuclear antigen (10 μmol/L, starting at 8-day treatment). Examination of genes involved in retinoid uptake and action showed that treatment induced STRA6 expression while expression of CRABP2 and FABP5 remained unchanged. Fenretinide also significantly decreased the endometriotic lesion xenograft volume. Conclusions: Fenretinide increases STRA6 expression thereby potentially reversing the pathological loss of retinoid availability. Treatment with this compound induces apoptosis. In vivo treatments decrease lesion volume. Targeting the RA signaling pathway may be a promising novel treatment for women with endometriosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1139-1147
Number of pages9
JournalReproductive Sciences
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


  • STRA6
  • apoptosis
  • endometriosis
  • fenretinide
  • retinoic acid
  • retinoid
  • retinol

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology

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