Plain English Summary
Background and study aims
An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilised egg attaches itself somewhere other than inside the womb, usually in one of the fallopian tubes (the tubes connecting the ovaries and womb, which a mature egg travels down during ovulation). Sadly, there is no chance of this pregnancy surviving and if it is allowed to continue it could potentially be life-threatening to the mother. If an ectopic pregnancy is detected early enough, it can be treated with a single dose of a drug called methotrexate which stops the pregnancy developing. In some cases this single dose of methotrexate is not successful and a further dose of methotrexate is required or surgery may be needed. A more effective treatment is therefore needed to reduce the requirement for repeat doses of methotrexate or surgery. Previous studies using a drug called gefitinib (a drug used in lung cancer patients) in addition to methotrexate have shown promising results, as it appears to have a blocking effect on the cells found in an ectopic pregnancy. These studies were in a small number of women and so a larger study is needed to prove the effectiveness of this treatment. The aim of this study is to find out whether treatment using methotrexate and gefitinib is more effective than methotrexate alone.
Who can participate?
Women aged between 18 and 50 who are being treated for an ectopic pregnancy.
What does the study involve?
Participants are randomly allocated to one of two groups. Those in the first group receive an injection of methotrexate and then take tablets containing gefitinib once a day for seven days. Those in the second group receive an injection of methotrexate and then take tablets containing a placebo (dummy drug) once a day for seven days. Participants in both groups are then monitored for three months in order to find out whether they required any additional treatment (surgery or further methotrexate).
What are the possible benefits and risks of participating?
Not provided at time of registration
Where is the study run from?
Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh (lead site) and 49 other centres throughout the England, Scotland and Wales (UK)
When is the study starting and how long is it expected to run for?
April 2016 to December 2018
Who is funding the study?
National Institute for Health Research (UK)
Who is the main contact?
Ms Kirandeep Sunner
Ms Kirandeep Sunner
Institute of Applied Health Research
Public Health Building
University of Birmingham
+44 121 4159111
A double blind placebo controlled trial of a combination of methotrexate and gefitinib versus methotrexate alone as a treatment for ectopic pregnancy
Combination of intramuscular methotrexate and oral gefitinib, an EGFR antagonist, is a more effective treatment for ectopic pregnancy than methotrexate alone.
Scottish A Research Ethics Committee, 29/02/2016, ref: 16/SS/0014
Multi-centre double-blind randomised controlled trial
Primary study design
Secondary study design
Randomised controlled trial
Patient information sheet
Participants will be randomly allocated to one of two study arms using a computer-based algorithm to avoid chance imbalances in stratification variables.
Arm 1: Participants are administered 50mg/m2 methotrexate as intramuscular injection and take a single tablet containing 250mg gefitinib daily for seven days.
Arm 2: Participants are administered 50mg/m2 methotrexate as intramuscular injection and take a single tablet containing a placebo daily for seven days.
Participants will be monitored as per local standards care for an ectopic pregnancy post randomisation so they will have their routine blood tested which includes checking safety bloods and measurement of hCG levels. In addition to this the trial requires participants to have an additional safety blood to ensure that the treatment is not causing any untoward effects. Once the hCG level has dropped to 15iu/L the research team will call the participant 3 months after resolution to complete the 3 month questionnaire.
Primary outcome measure
Need for surgical intervention for treatment of ectopic pregnancy is determined through interviews with patients at clinic appointments and at the 3 month follow up telephone call.
Secondary outcome measures
1. Need for additional methotrexate treatment is determined through interviews with patients at clinic appointments
2. Time to hCG resolution (days) from randomisation to hCG level of ≤15 iu/L calculated from the day of diagnosis to the day the hCG dropped to 15iu/L, is determined through blood testing at baseline and throughout the trial based on local trust policy
3. Number of treatment-associated hospital visits until resolution or scheduled/emergency surgery is determined through medical record review at 3 months
4. Safety/tolerability is assessed through blood testing undertaken within 3 days of randomisation and 14-21 days post randomisation and patient interviews at clinic visits 14-21 days post randomisation
5. Acceptaibility of treatment is assessed using the Likert score after 3 months through a follow up telephone call at 3 months
6. Return to menses is assessed after 3 months post resolution of the ectopic pregnancy through a follow up telephone call at 3 months
Overall trial start date
Overall trial end date
Reason abandoned (if study stopped)
Participant inclusion criteria
1. Clinical decision made for treatment of tubal EP with MTX
2. Able to understand all information (written and oral) presented (using an interpreter if necessary) and provide signed consent
3. Women 18-50 years at time of randomisation
4. Diagnosis of either:
4.1. Definite tubal EP (extrauterine gestational sac with yolk sac and/or embryo, without cardiac activity on USS) or
4.2. Clinical decision of probable tubal EP (extrauterine sac-like structure or inhomogeneous adnexal mass on USS with a background of sub optimally rising serum hCG concentrations (on at least 2 different days)
5. Pre-treatment serum hCG level of 1000–5000 iu/L (within 1 calendar day of treatment)
6. Clinically stable
7. Haemoglobin between 100 and 165 g/L within 3 calendar days of treatment
8. Able to comply with treatment and willing to participate in follow up
Target number of participants
Participant exclusion criteria
1. Women with a Ppregnancy of unknown location (PUL)
2. Evidence of intrauterine pregnancy
4. Hypersensitivity to gefitinib
5. Women with mean EP mass on ultrasound greater than 3.5cm (mean dimensions)
6. Women with evidence of intrauterine pregnancy
7. Evidence of significant intra-abdominal bleed on ultrasound USS defined by echogenic free fluid above the uterine fundus or surrounding ovary within 1 calendar day of treatment
8. Significant abdominal pain, guarding/rigidity
9. Clinically significant abnormal liver/renal/haematological indices noted within 3 calendar days of treatment
10. Galactose intolerance
11. Significant pre-existing dermatological disease eg severe psoriasis/eczema
12. Significant pulmonary disease eg severe/uncontrolled asthma
13. Significant gastrointestinal medical illness eg Crohn’s disease/ulcerative colitis
14. Participating in any other clinical trial of an investigational medicinal product
15. Previous participation in GEM3
16. Women of Japanese ethnicity
Recruitment start date
Recruitment end date
Countries of recruitment
Trial participating centre
Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh
51 Little France Crescent
National Institute for Health Research
Funding Body Type
Funding Body Subtype
Results and Publications
Publication and dissemination plan
Planned publication in a high-impact peer reviewed journal.
IPD sharing plan:
The current data sharing plans for the current study are unknown and will be made available at a later date
Intention to publish date
Participant level data
To be made available at a later date
Basic results (scientific)