July 28, 2008

Fertility Treatment Brings New Hope to Women Undergoing Chemotherapy

A new fertility method for women facing chemotherapy significantly increases the odds that they will be able harvest their eggs before treatment.
New research suggests that a novel fertility treatment may give a woman a much better chance of harvesting and freezing her eggs before undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment. The study provides encouraging results for women who need to begin chemotherapy but do not wish to sacrifice their ability to have children. Now only a two-week period is required to harvest viable eggs, rather than up to six weeks, as before.

There are no new drugs involved in the treatment — only a new approach.

Many women who are diagnosed with cancer wish to save their eggs before beginning treatment, since these therapies often leave women infertile. However, this option was typically limited by the phase of the menstrual cycle a woman happened to be in at the time of cancer diagnosis. Traditional fertility treatment can only be done at the onset of the woman's menstrual cycle, and postponing chemotherapy for several weeks to start fertility treatment is not often a practical option.

But a new study presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology has found that there is actually more latitude in when women can begin fertility treatment than was previously thought.

The researchers studied 40 women to determine whether it was possible to begin fertility treatment during the second half of the menstrual cycle, the luteal phase, in addition to the first. Twenty-eight women were given treatment in the first half (proliferative phase) of their cycles, and 12 subjects were given a GnRH-antagonist during the luteal phase, and synthetic FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) to stimulate the maturity of egg-containing follicles.

For women in the first group, an average of 10 days was required to stimulate follicles and 11 eggs were harvested. Across the second group, follicles were stimulated for about 13 days and 10 eggs were collected. Interestingly, in both groups, about the same number of eggs were mature at the time of collection and similar numbers were fertilized.

Lead researcher Michael Von Wolf pointed out that there are no new drugs involved in the treatment — only a new approach. He said that he is "desperately working to try to have everybody who does fertility to know about it." Women diagnosed with cancer who are facing this situation should let their doctors know of this new approach.
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