A new study has revealed how chemotherapy can cause infertility in women with cancer. The study also found that a drug called AS101 protects the egg reserves in the ovaries from damage during treatment.
Follicles are clusters of cells, where each follicle contains an oocyte or egg. Every month, a few of these follicles will start to grow and mature, and they will go through several stages until one follicle reaches full maturity and ovulates every month. As women age, the number of resting follicles and the supply of eggs in the ovaries will continue to decline. As we all know, common treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy destroy the follicles and cause infertility, but how this happens is still a mystery. Lital Kalich-Philosoph and colleagues found that chemotherapy â€” especially a drug called cyclophosphamide â€” interferes with the natural balance that controls the growth of resting follicles, causing an overactive and growing process.
Once these follicles begin to grow, they embark on a path of no return that ends in death. When too many follicles are activated, the egg stock will be "depleted". Cyclophosphamide also kills actively growing follicles-causing a double blow. The researchers found that a drug called AS101 prevents the depletion of follicles in mice. Simultaneous administration of AS101 to mice can retain more follicles in their ovaries than those given chemotherapy alone. When these mice were mated after chemotherapy, those who received AS101 at the same time as those who received chemotherapy had similar numbers of gestations and litters as those who had not received chemotherapy. AS101 does not appear to impair the effectiveness of chemotherapy. In fact, even while blocking the destructive effects of chemotherapy drugs on the ovaries, AS101 seems to have anti-cancer effects and can make tumor cells sensitive to chemotherapy drugs. These results suggest that AS101 may be beneficial to protect the fertility of cancer patients.
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