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Treatment fails to preserve ovarian function after chemotherapy

January 09, 2012|By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • A new study recommends that fertile women about to undergo chemotherapy consider freezing eggs or embryos for future in vitro fertilization as ways to maintain their options for pregnancy.
A new study recommends that fertile women about to undergo chemotherapy… (Chris Hondros / Getty Images )

Chemotherapy can destroy ovarian function in premenopausal women and much research has been dedicated to finding ways to preserve fertility in these women. Among breast cancer patients, for instance, about one in 200 are younger than age 40, and some of them may wish to become pregnant after successful cancer treatment.

At least one of the strategies to preserve fertility in these women looks to be a failure, however. Researchers led by Dr. Pamela Munster at UC San Francisco conducted a study of premenopausal women undergoing chemotherapy. Half of the women received a gonadotropin-releasing hormone analog called triptorelin, which some previous studies have suggested may protect the ovaries and preserve fertility. The other half of the women did not receive triptorelin.

The study was stopped early, however, when an analysis of 49 patients showed no difference in the two groups between resumption of menstruation -- which is an indication of ovarian function. Two pregnancies occurred -- both among women who did not receive triptorelin.

Based on the study results, triptorelin "should not be recommended" for ovarian function preservation, the authors said. Fertile women who are about to undergo chemotherapy should consider other ways to maintain their options for pregnancy. These option include freezing eggs or embryos for future in vitro fertilization.

The study appears online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

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