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Why chemotherapy causes more infertility in women than in men
Date:2/22/2011

Chemotherapeutic agents, used in cancer treatment, destroy not only cancer cells but also healthy cells, thus affecting germ cells as well. Consequently, after surviving cancer many female patients are confronted with the diagnosis: infertility. For a long time a relationship between infertility and chemotherapeutic agents has been assumed, but until now, the exact mechanism was not known.

Scientists from the research group of Prof. Volker Dtsch (Institute of Biophysical Chemistry, Goethe University Frankfurt) in cooperation with international partners have now started to unveil the mechanism of cancer treatment related infertility. Their results are published in the internationally renowned journal Cell. Mainly women suffer from infertility because the quality control in the oocytes is different from male germ cells. Male germ cells are produced throughout the whole life span but the number of female germ cells is restricted and already fixed before birth. If the oocytes are damaged during cancer treatment, they are destroyed by the female quality control mechanism.

Essential for this process is the protein p63 which shows striking similarity to another important protein of the same family: p53. p53 is also named "guardian of the genome" because of its regulatory function in cell division and cell death of damaged cells and, therefore, plays a key role in the suppression of genetic anomalies which could lead to cancer. In more than half of all human tumors p53 is altered and no longer functional.

For a long time the exact regulation of p53 and p63 and the similarities and differences between these two proteins have been the object of many international research projects. In the currently accepted model the concentration of p53 in healthy cells is relatively low. If genetic anomalies occur in a cell which could cause the transition to a cancer cell, the concentration of p53 increases and four p53 proteins form a tetramer. In this tetrameri
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Contact: Prof. Volker Doetsch
vdoetsch@em.uni-frankfurt.de
49-697-982-9631
Goethe University Frankfurt
Source:Eurekalert

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