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Israeli Researchers Make Groundbreaking Discovery In Preserving Fertility In Chemo Patients

Study suggests that young females undergoing chemo may soon have hope to conceive naturally

By: Sandra Mergulhão
Published: July 17th, 2013 in Health » Israel
A mother holds her newborn baby

In what is believed to be a groundbreaking study, Israeli researchers may have discovered a way for female cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy to conceive naturally without having to undergo ovarian tissue transplantation.

A study published in Science Translational Medicine (published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science), states that by adding an Israeli-synthesized compound, AS101, to the chemotherapy regime, infertility can be prevented.

Cancer treatments frequently damage women’s ovaries, thus hindering them from conceiving naturally. The only option these women are left with for a possibility to conceive is to extract and freeze their eggs or ovarian tissue for transplantation post recovery. However, this process cannot be used on every patient, it's expensive, and also does not guarantee success.

The research study reveals the mechanics of this problem and – more importantly – a possible approach to evade it.

A mouse model of a common chemo drug was used by doctoral student Lital Kalich-Philosoph and senior researcher Dr. Hadassa Roness to understand how it attacks the ovaries and the eggs inside them.

The research was conducted at the Center for Fertility Preservation at the Chaim Sheba Medical Center – Tel Hashomer Hospital in Israel. It was headed by Prof. Dror Meirow, in collaboration with the Cancer AIDS and Immunology Research Institute at Bar-Ilan University, headed by Prof. Benjamin Sredni.

Doctors had always believed that chemotherapy directly destroyed oocytes (or egg cells). However, Prof. Meirow explains that the treatment actually only triggers an abnormal wave of growth in these dormant cells before killing them. Thus, women experience a condition called Ovarian Burnout- where their natural reserve of egg cells is depleted.

“This new understanding of the mechanism behind the loss of these cells has allowed us to shift the focus and find a new drug that can prevent the growth of the oocytes,” Prof. Meirow told Israel 21C.

The researchers experimented with AS101 to try and block the activation and growth of the dormant egg cells in mice. Oocytes treated with AS101 and combined with chemo remained dormant and survived the entire treatment. Additionally, these test mice had normal fertility as compared to the mice treated solely with the cancer drug. The latter had a lower rate of pregnancy and fewer total offspring.

Moreover, adding the combination treatment to patients does not make the cancer treatments any less effective and in fact, may even increase effectiveness by sensitizing tumors to anti-cancer drugs.

AS101 is a drug candidate developed by Prof. Michael Albeck at Bar-Ilan University and is ow in advanced clinical trials for use in cancer patients. Future experiments will seek to translate results from mice into human patients.

Related articles: Health News, Cancer, Chemo, Fertility, Cancer News, Chemotherapy Patients, Radiation
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