Vinorelbine Potently Induces Placental Cell Death, Does Not Harm Fertility and is a Potential Treatment for Ectopic Pregnancy

Roxanne Hastie, Elgene Lim, Pavel Sluka, Lisa Campbell, Andrew W. Horne, Lenore Ellett, Natalie J. Hannan, Fiona Brownfoot, Tu'uhevaha J. Kaitu'u-Lino, Stephen Tong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Ectopic pregnancies complicate 1–2 pregnancies and are a leading cause of maternal death. An effective oral drug therapy that replaces surgery might make its treatment safer, cheaper, simpler and therefore more widely accessible. The only current medical treatment offered to women is intramuscular methotrexate, but this only reliably resolves smaller ectopic pregnancies. As such, many ectopic pregnancies require surgical excision. We show that vinorelbine, an orally available chemotherapeutic agent, potently induced placental cell death but did not harm fertility in mice. Vinorelbine was 100–1000 times more potent than methotrexate in inducing placental cell death in vitro, and more potent than combination methotrexate and gefitinib (another proposed treatment for ectopic pregnancy being evaluated in phase III trials). Mechanistically, it caused microtubule condensation, blocked mitosis and activated the apoptosis cascade in placental cells. Vinorelbine was more efficacious than methotrexate ± gefitinib in reducing the volume of placental cell tumors xenografted subcutaneously in SCID mice. Mice exposed to vinorelbine and allowed to breed, following a four week washout period, displayed normal fertility, however long-term fertility was not assessed. Human Fallopian tubes treated with vinorelbine did not exhibit up-regulation of apoptosis molecules. Our findings show that placental cells appear sensitive to vinorelbine and it has potential as a tablet-only approach to treat ectopic pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)166-176
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018


  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Methotrexate
  • Placenta
  • Treatment
  • Vinorelbine

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