The Feminist Majority Foundation played a critical and decisive role in helping assure mifepristone’s U.S. approval for safe and effective early medical abortion. In addition to fighting to expand safe abortion options, for more than a decade, FMF has also been advocating for non-abortion clinical trials using mifepristone to treat cancers and other life-threatening conditions that solely or disproportionately affect gender minorities including women, trans people, and nonbinary people.
Mifepristone, formerly known as RU-486, has anti-hormone properties. Early clinical trials have shown the drug’s vast medical potential. However, access to the drug was blocked for desperately ill patients, and clinical trial development was held up due to anti-abortion politics–until the FMF stepped in.
The FMF took on the unusual responsibility of administering a “Mifepristone Compassionate Use” program in conjunction with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) when no other scientific or medical professional organization would take on that perceived political risk. Today, we’ve assisted nearly 150 desperately ill patients with various kinds of ovarian cancers, brain tumors, breast cancers, endocrinopathies and psychiatric conditions access this drug that’s been their only hope. We’re thrilled that many patients have found this program to be a literal lifeline – the medication has worked and they’ve been on the program for years, even decades.
To forward mifepristone clinical trials on the myriad conditions that this drug may potentially treat, FMF has put together a team of prestigious clinical researchers, attorneys, and FDA specialists, and has moved ahead with Phase II clinical trials for people with ovarian and uterine cancers.
Gender matters: If these conditions primarily affected cisgender men, FMF suspects that a non-profit organization like ours wouldn’t have to be working this hard to raise awareness about this healthcare inequity, administer the Compassionate Use Program, or raise money to help fund the clinical trials. But this is about cancer that disproportionately impacts women, trans people, and non-binary people, and we must break the logjam for this crucial research in addition to helping make this medication available to desperately ill patients on a Compassionate Use basis. We have an amazing opportunity to move forward: the reward may be to revolutionize the treatment of hormone-dependent cervical, breast, and ovarian cancers.
When all else fails, feminists can make health research for gender minorities move forward.