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Scientists Discover How Chemo Can Make Women Infertile
Date:9/28/2009

ects in offspring. In particular, cisplatin, which was studied in this trial, causes specific types of chromosomal damage.

Cisplatin is primarily usually used to treat ovarian cancer, Attia noted.

In this study, Gonfloni and her colleagues showed that cisplatin promotes the death of oocytes, or female germ cells, by way of the c-Abl enzyme, a protein that, when mutated, can also cause chronic myeloid leukemia (CML).

But targeting the enzyme with imatinib (Gleevec), a drug used to treat CML, protected the oocytes from the ill effects of cisplatin.

"These results raise the possibility of protecting ovarian function during cancer treatments, thereby preserving the fertility in female cancer survivors," Gonfloni added.

But how to use one drug without compromising the other?

"First, we have to show that imatinib can be used to prevent chemotherapy-induced ovarian toxicity without interfering with anti-cancer treatments," Gonfloni said. "In other words, we have to prove that tumor-bearing laboratory animals can be cured with a combined cisplatin and imatinib treatment, while at the same time preserving fertility," she explained.

"Then, for any clinical implications, it will be very important to prove the same protective effect of a specific dosage of imatinib on human oocytes cultured and challenged with chemotherapeutic drugs in vitro," she added.

And preserving fertility is not always the right thing, Astsaturov said.

"Chemotherapy induces menopause in some hormone-dependent cancers. It has a beneficial effect because it's withdrawing the stimulants for the cancer cells. Menopause is contributing to the cure," he said. "It's still debated whether we should preserve menstrual function at all costs."

More information

Visit Cancer Research UK for more on chemotherapy and fert
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