New Hope for Fertility After Cancer

Chemotherapy plus triptorelin linked to higher rate of ovarian function recovery in breast cancer patients

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh

(RxWiki News) Young women with invasive breast cancer are often faced with a difficult choice: whether or not to undergo chemotherapy despite its risk of infertility.

However, a new study from Italy found that breast cancer patients treated with the hormonal drug triptorelin (brand name Trelstar) plus chemotherapy had a higher chance of ovarian function recovery than those treated with chemotherapy alone.

Chemotherapy can cause ovarian function loss and impair fertility, leading some young women with breast cancer to rethink this potentially lifesaving treatment. But using hormone therapy to preserve ovarian function in these patients has remained controversial, primarily due to a lack of evidence.

To investigate, researchers randomly assigned 281 premenopausal women with invasive hormone receptor (HR)-positive or HR-negative breast cancer to chemotherapy alone or to chemotherapy plus triptorelin.

After five years, the rate of ovarian function recovery was 73 percent among the triptorelin group and 64 percent among the control group.

No statistically significant differences in the rates of pregnancy or disease-free survival between the two groups were found.

In an editorial about this study, Ann H. Partridge, MD, MPH, an oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, wrote, "Young adults diagnosed with cancer may confront not only a potentially life-threatening [disease] at an untimely age but often must contend with the risk of infertility following cancer therapy and during their survivorship. [This study] reflects the emerging importance of understanding and improving such critical quality-of-life issues ... and ultimately providing hope regarding an issue that is highly valued by many young patients diagnosed with cancer."

The study and editorial were published Dec. 22 in the journal JAMA.

Italy's National Institute for Cancer Research and the Italian Association for Cancer Research funded this research.

Several study authors disclosed ties to pharmaceutical companies that make products used in breast cancer treatment. Dr. Partridge served on an advisory board for Pfizer, Inc.

Review Date: 
December 21, 2015
Last Updated:
December 28, 2015