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Protective strategy shields primate ovaries from radiation-therapy-induced damage
Date:2/22/2011

A strategy developed by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers to shield the ovaries of female mammals from the damaging effects of radiation and chemotherapy has passed an important milestone. A collaborative study with investigators from Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU), published online in the journal Fertility and Sterility, reports that brief preexposure of the ovaries to an FDA-approved agent called FTY720 preserved the fertility of female rhesus monkeys exposed to potentially lethal doses of radiation. All of the treated animals have had successful pregancies and delivered healthy offspring.

"When we started working on this project in the mid-1990s, the only strategy available to preserve the fertility of cancer patients was collecting and freezing eggs or ovarian tissue for assisted reproduction, neither of which offered much in terms of successful pregnancies," explains Jonathan Tilly, PhD, director of the Vincent Center for Reproductive Biology in the MGH Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, senior author of the Fertility and Sterility article. "Since then we have brought the concept of protecting the ovaries from damage caused by anticancer treatments all the way from an idea on paper, through a decade of mouse studies, to a proof of concept in living primates."

In 1997 Tilly and collaborators at the MGH and other research centers discovered that treatment with chemotherapy drugs led to the death of egg cells in mice through a process known as apoptosis used naturally by the body to delete unwanted or damaged cells and also identified the specific cell-death pathway involved. A follow-up 2000 study from Tilly's group showed that blocking that pathway with a compound called sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) preserved the egg cells (oocytes) of mice exposed to radiation therapy, which activates the same cell-death pathway as chemotherapy; and that those oocytes could be fertilized. A third study from Til
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Contact: Sue McGreevey
smcgreevey@partners.org
617-724-2764
Massachusetts General Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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