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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016 Apr 20;4:CD012165. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD012165.

Endometrial biomarkers for the non-invasive diagnosis of endometriosis.

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Auckland District Health Board, Auckland, New Zealand.



About 10% of reproductive-aged women suffer from endometriosis, which is a costly, chronic disease that causes pelvic pain and subfertility. Laparoscopy is the gold standard diagnostic test for endometriosis, but it is expensive and carries surgical risks. Currently, there are no non-invasive tests available in clinical practice that accurately diagnose endometriosis. This is the first diagnostic test accuracy review of endometrial biomarkers for endometriosis that utilises Cochrane methodologies, providing an update on the rapidly expanding literature in this field.


To determine the diagnostic accuracy of the endometrial biomarkers for pelvic endometriosis, using a surgical diagnosis as the reference standard. We evaluated the tests as replacement tests for diagnostic surgery and as triage tests to inform decisions to undertake surgery for endometriosis.


We did not restrict the searches to particular study designs, language or publication dates. To identify trials, we searched the following databases: CENTRAL (2015, July), MEDLINE (inception to May 2015), EMBASE (inception to May 2015), CINAHL (inception to April 2015), PsycINFO (inception to April 2015), Web of Science (inception to April 2015), LILACS (inception to April 2015), OAIster (inception to April 2015), TRIP (inception to April 2015) and (inception to April 2015). We searched DARE and PubMed databases up to April 2015 to identify reviews and guidelines as sources of references to potentially relevant studies. We also performed searches for papers recently published and not yet indexed in the major databases. The search strategies incorporated words in the title, abstract, text words across the record and the medical subject headings (MeSH).


We considered published peer-reviewed, randomised controlled or cross-sectional studies of any size that included prospectively collected samples from any population of reproductive-aged women suspected of having one or more of the following target conditions: ovarian, peritoneal or deep infiltrating endometriosis (DIE).


Two authors independently extracted data from each study and performed a quality assessment. For each endometrial diagnostic test, we classified the data as positive or negative for the surgical detection of endometriosis and calculated the estimates of sensitivity and specificity. We considered two or more tests evaluated in the same cohort as separate data sets. We used the bivariate model to obtain pooled estimates of sensitivity and specificity whenever sufficient data were available. The predetermined criteria for a clinically useful test to replace diagnostic surgery was one with a sensitivity of 94% and a specificity of 79%. The criteria for triage tests were set at sensitivity at or above 95% and specificity at or above 50%, which in case of negative results rules out the diagnosis (SnOUT test) or sensitivity at or above 50% with specificity at or above 95%, which in case of positive result rules in the diagnosis (SpIN test).


We included 54 studies involving 2729 participants, most of which were of poor methodological quality. The studies evaluated endometrial biomarkers either in specific phases of the menstrual cycle or outside of it, and the studies tested the biomarkers either in menstrual fluid, in whole endometrial tissue or in separate endometrial components. Twenty-seven studies evaluated the diagnostic performance of 22 endometrial biomarkers for endometriosis. These were angiogenesis and growth factors (PROK-1), cell-adhesion molecules (integrins α3β1, α4β1, β1 and α6), DNA-repair molecules (hTERT), endometrial and mitochondrial proteome, hormonal markers (CYP19, 17βHSD2, ER-α, ER-β), inflammatory markers (IL-1R2), myogenic markers (caldesmon, CALD-1), neural markers (PGP 9.5, VIP, CGRP, SP, NPY, NF) and tumour markers (CA-125). Most of these biomarkers were assessed in single studies, whilst only data for PGP 9.5 and CYP19 were available for meta-analysis. These two biomarkers demonstrated significant diversity for the diagnostic estimates between the studies; however, the data were too limited to reliably determine the sources of heterogeneity. The mean sensitivities and specificities of PGP 9.5 (7 studies, 361 women) were 0.96 (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.91 to 1.00) and 0.86 (95% CI 0.70 to 1.00), after excluding one outlier study, and for CYP19 (8 studies, 444 women), they were were 0.77 (95% CI 0.70 to 0.85) and 0.74 (95% CI 0.65 to 84), respectively. We could not statistically evaluate other biomarkers in a meaningful way. An additional 31 studies evaluated 77 biomarkers that showed no evidence of differences in expression levels between the groups of women with and without endometriosis.


We could not statistically evaluate most of the biomarkers assessed in this review in a meaningful way. In view of the low quality of most of the included studies, the findings of this review should be interpreted with caution. Although PGP 9.5 met the criteria for a replacement test, it demonstrated considerable inter study heterogeneity in diagnostic estimates, the source of which could not be determined. Several endometrial biomarkers, such as endometrial proteome, 17βHSD2, IL-1R2, caldesmon and other neural markers (VIP, CGRP, SP, NPY and combination of VIP, PGP 9.5 and SP) showed promising evidence of diagnostic accuracy, but there was insufficient or poor quality evidence for any clinical recommendations. Laparoscopy remains the gold standard for the diagnosis of endometriosis, and using any non-invasive tests should only be undertaken in a research setting. We have also identified a number of biomarkers that demonstrated no diagnostic value for endometriosis. We recommend that researchers direct future studies towards biomarkers with high diagnostic potential in good quality diagnostic studies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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