Goserelin can help preserve the fertility of young women who are undergoing chemotherapy for certain types of breast cancer, a new study reveals.
The cancer drug also appeared to improve survival, according to the results of a phase III clinical trial unveiled at the American Society for Clinical Oncology annual meeting.
Early menopause can be triggered by breast cancer chemotherapy. Some women resume menstruating after chemo and can have children, but many cannot.
"I think these findings are going to change our clinical practice," said senior study author Kathy Albain of Loyola University Medical Center.
Some 49,000 women under 50 are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the United States, making up about a quarter of all breast cancer cases.
About 15 percent of young women have cancers that are hormone receptor negative, and these are the women who could benefit from taking goserelin to essentially put the ovaries at rest during chemo, researchers said.
The study randomly assigned 131 patients to receive standard chemotherapy and 126 to receive chemotherapy plus goserelin by injection once every four weeks.
Nearly half (45 percent) of the women on standard chemo stopped menstruating after two years.
Only 20 percent of the women receiving goserelin had stopped menstruating.
Pregnancies were twice as common in the goserelin group -- 21 percent compared to 11 percent.
And 89 percent of the women taking goserelin had no signs or symptoms of cancer four years later, compared to 78 percent of those receiving standard chemotherapy.
Survival was higher too -- 92 percent in the goserelin group and 82 percent in the standard chemo group.
Albain said women who need to undergo chemo for early breast cancer should consider taking goserelin to prevent premature ovarian failure.
Goserelin, known by the brand name Zoladex, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for prostate cancer, certain benign gynecological disorders and certain breast cancers.