- A four-drug combination used to target a type of blood cancer appears to increase the number of non-growing eggs in women's ovaries.
- The ovary tissue was seen to be in healthy condition, appearing similar to tissue from young women's ovaries.
- More research on the independent function of the drugs may help reveal the mechanism behind the effect.
Women treated with a common chemotherapy drug combination for a type of blood cancer produce more eggs in their ovaries.
A small study indicates that a therapy commonly used to target Hodgkin's lymphoma appears to increase the number of non-growing eggs in women's ovaries. Hodgkin lymphoma is a type of blood cancer that starts in white blood cells called lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are part of the immune system. As the cancer progresses, it limits the body's ability to fight infection. Lymph nodes in the neck, armpits or groin may swell. Fatigue, fever and chills are some symptoms.
‘Treatment with adriamycin, bleomycin, vinblastine and dacarbazine is one of the few cancer drug combinations that does not pose a threat to women's fertility.’
Scientists from the University of Edinburgh analysed samples of ovary tissue donated by 14 women who had undergone chemotherapy, and from 12 healthy women.
They found that the ovaries from eight of the cancer patients, who had been treated with a drug combination known as adriamycin, bleomycin, vinblastine and dacarbazine (ABVD), had a much greater incidence of immature, or non-growing, eggs compared with tissue from women who had received a different chemotherapy, or from healthy women of a similar age. The ovary tissue was seen to be in healthy condition, appearing similar to tissue from young women's ovaries.
Until recently it was thought that the ability to produce eggs was not possible but further research can reveal the mechanism by which treatment with ABVD produces eggs.
Future studies will examine the separate impact of each of the four drugs that combine to make ABVD , to better understand the biological mechanisms involved.
Lead researcher Professor Evelyn Telfer of the University of Edinburgh's School of Biological Sciences, said: "This study involves only a few patients, but its findings were consistent and its outcome may be significant and far-reaching. We need to know more about how this drug combination acts on the ovaries, and the implications of this."
Researchers say it is too soon to link the outcome to fertility, but believe more research is needed to better understand the findings and their implications.
- Evelyn Telfer et al.,ABVD chemotherapy for lymphoma affects number and morphology of primordial follicles in the adolescent and adult ovary, Human Reproduction, (2016)