News / Health

Study: Drug Preserves Fertility in Younger Women With Cancer

Christy Wolford, a breast cancer survivor, had her ovaries suppressed during cancer treatment and she has had three boys since treatment ended in 2006. She holds son Lucas, 2, as her other children play in the background in Fort Collins, Colo., May 29, 2014.
Christy Wolford, a breast cancer survivor, had her ovaries suppressed during cancer treatment and she has had three boys since treatment ended in 2006. She holds son Lucas, 2, as her other children play in the background in Fort Collins, Colo., May 29, 2014.
VOA News
A new treatment approach may help thousands of women with early-stage breast cancer avoid premature menopause and preserve their ability to have children, U.S. researchers said.

A study, presented at the annual meeting of American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago, showed that women who received AstraZeneca PLC's drug goserelin along with chemotherapy were 64 percent less likely to develop premature menopause than women who had chemotherapy alone. They were also more likely to have successful pregnancies, and the treatment appeared to improve survival.

Chemotherapy often causes premature ovarian failure, or early menopause. Doctors think that active ovaries are more susceptible to chemo damage, and that making the ovaries go dormant and stopping a woman's monthly cycles might help shield them from harm. It might even improve survival, a study found.

The study involved 257 women around the world under age 50 with breast cancers whose growth is not fueled by estrogen. They all had standard chemo and half also had monthly shots of goserelin, a drug to lower estrogen and temporarily put the ovaries at rest. Its main side effects are menopause symptoms - hot flashes and vaginal dryness, the AP reported.

Doctors then tracked the women to see how the treatments affected fertility.

Study results

After two years, full results were available on 135 participants. Only 8 percent of those given the shots became menopausal versus 22 percent of the others who didn't get them. There were 22 pregnancies in the drug group versus 12 in the other one.

That's encouraging, but firm comparisons can't really be made because not all women may have been trying to conceive, and other factors such as a partner's fertility play a role, the AP reported.

Still, "the difference was enough that in spite of all the limitations in the study, we were pretty convincingly able to see an effect," said the study's leader, Dr. Halle Moore of the Cleveland Clinic, according to the AP.

The benefits go beyond preserving fertility, said Dr. Kathy Albain, a breast cancer specialist at Chicago's Loyola University and one of the study leaders.

"Some women don't care about having children" after breast cancer, but would like to avoid "being jolted into early menopause" by chemo treatment, she said.

About a quarter of breast cancers occur in women under 50, affecting some 40,000 to 50,000 women each year. Unlike natural menopause, which occurs gradually, chemotherapy can suddenly throw a woman into full-blown menopause. In about half of these women, this condition is permanent, eliminating the chance for a future pregnancy.

"This is the first time anything has been shown to prevent this," said Albain. "I think these findings are going to change our clinical practice."

During the study's design, researchers were concerned that adding the hormone treatment might hurt the women's breast cancer treatment, Reuters reported.

But the results suggest women who got goserelin were 50 percent more likely to be alive four years after starting treatment compared with those receiving the standard therapy.

National Cancer Day

To mark National Cancer Day, the American Cancer Society noted that there are 14.5 million cancer survivors in the United States and that number is expected to grow to 19 million over the next decade.

More cancers are cured, more people are living longer with the disease and people are living longer in general, which boosts the number of cases and survivors because the risk of developing cancer rises with age, the American Cancer Society noted in a report by the AP.

The report came on the third day of the annual meeting of ASCO, the world's largest group of specialists who treat cancer. This year's event, ASCO's 50th, brings together 30,000 doctors, researchers and pharmaceutical agents from around the world.

"Scientifically, the field of oncology has never been more exciting," said Clifford Hudis, president of ASCO, according to the French news agency AFP.

Progess made

Hudis cited new targeted therapies that take aim at the cellular functions of tumors, leading to progress against some difficult to treat cancers. Also, immunotherapy is an exciting field that uses a patient's own immune system to attack tumors, and is showing promise against melanoma, leukemia, and a handful of other cancers.

"We have made incredible progress in 50 years," said Jyoti Patel, a cancer specialist at Northwestern University, according to AFP

"The scientific breakthroughs in cancer are occurring at a breathtaking pace and are being translated into new drugs and devices that benefit patients more quickly than ever before," said Richard Schilsky, chief medical officer of ASCO, AFP reported.

However, he warned that this progress is in jeopardy due to a shortage of research funds, particularly from the National Institutes of Health, the largest government funder of US scientific research wich in 2013 had a budget of $28.9 billion.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters, AFP and AP.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Troops Depart

Afghans are grappling with how exodus will affect country's fragile economy More

Video Scientists Say We Need Softer Robots

Today’s robots are mostly hard, rigid machines, with sharp edges and forceful movements, but researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say they should be softer and therefore safer More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs