Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic say they have found a drug that shows promise in protecting fertility among cancer survivors. Goserelin, which is commonly used in hormonal therapies to treat breast and prostate cancers, is also used in fertility clinics to control ovulation. How does it work?
According to this recent study, goserelin has been proven to prevent women from entering premature menopause that can be caused by chemotherapy. Researchers found that women who were given goserelin injections along with chemotherapy had less ovarian failure and gave birth to more babies than women who only received chemotherapy. Two years after starting chemotherapy, only 8% of women who received the monthly goserelin injections during chemotherapy experienced ovarian failure, compared to 22% of those with chemotherapy who did not receive the injections. It was noted that this study only included women who had hormone-receptor-negative cancer, because many women with hormone-receptor-positive cancer typically receive the drug tamoxifen, which can cause a loss in menstruation.
Currently, the most common option for breast cancer patients to increase their chances of conceiving is to freeze their eggs, which is an invasive procedure that can cost $10,000+. Once-a-month injections of goserelin during chemotherapy would serve as an alternative, costing about $500-$600 per shot. Experts say, while the research shows positive results, the drug does come with side effects. Survivors may experience a temporary postmenopausal state along with hot flashes and other symptoms.
There is some doubt among experts at the American Society of Clinical Oncology who say there is insufficient evidence that this approach is effective and “should not be relied on to preserve fertility.”
Still, scientists say they also noticed an unexpected finding of the study: women who received goserelin had a lower risk of dying after four years. They say there is still not enough data to recommend this drug be used to treat cancer, but the results show goserelin will not worsen cancer outcomes if used to protect fertility.
To read the complete article in the New York Times, click here.