One of the dominant themes of clinical research is the issue of how to preserve the fertility of young women or girls facing cancer. At the moment, the best bet seems to be freezing eggs or ovarian tissue, as sadly the rigours of chemotherapy usually cause the ovaries to shut down completely. But a new way to protect ovaries from aggressive chemotherapy may be on the horizon, says Kate Stern of the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne.
Stern told us about a pilot study in which she gave 18 female cancer patients a drug that temporarily and partially shuts the ovaries down, hopefully protecting them from the full onslaught of chemotherapy. The drug, called cetrorelix, calms the production of hormones that fuel ovarian function. Of 18 women given the drug, all but one had resumed normal menstruation a year after their chemotherapy, and many are hopeful that they will successfully have kids in future.
Stern’s study was small and needs to be replicated in a proper clinical trial, but if it does work, the drug could offer a useful complement to egg freezing, and perhaps even supersede it entirely. After all, prevention is better than cure.