The University of Chicago said yesterday that it has not found vaginal or cervical cancer in follow-up examinations of daughters born to women who during pregnancy had been given DES pills in an experiment at the university's Chicago Lying-In Hospital in 1951 to 1952.
A spokesman reported this a day after three of the women filed a class-action damage suit against the university and Eli Lilly & Co., which had supplied the drug for a study that upset claims that it prevented miscarriages.
The plaintiffs said they had not been told that they were participants in an experiment. Two of them said they were told they were being given vitamin pills, not DES (diethylstilbestrol), an estrogen.
Researchers reported in 1971 that vaginal or cervical cancer had developed in a small proportion of the daughters of the estimated 1 million women who get DES across the country. Many DES daughters have an apparently benign but possibly precancercous cervical cellular formation. Some DES sons may have reproductive tract abnormalities.
The lawsuit, filed by lawyers for Ralph Nader's Public Citizen, Inc., said the university's experiment involved 1,081 women who got DES and an equal number who got dummy pills. The university said its records listed 840 on DES and 800 on a placebo. The discrepancy is thus far unexplained.
The university said that with the aid of a National Institutes of Health grant, it has been able to trace and examine, or have physicians elsewhere examine, 1,250 male and female offspring of DES mothers. No one knows how many more offspring there may be. One plaintiff, Assistant Secretary of State Patsy T. Monk, was not contacted by the university unitl early last year.