Fertility preservation in female cancer patients
Irreversible damage to the ovary is a devastating side effect of many anti-cancer treatments, often leaving cancer survivors unable to have their own children and facing premature menopause. We are investigating new strategies to protect the ovary from radiation and chemotherapy induced damage in order to preserve fertility and ovarian function in these patients.
Anti-cancer treatments, including both radiation and chemotherapy, are associated with significant immediate and long-term health problems for cancer survivors, including serious adverse effects on reproductive function and ovarian hormone production. In particular, these treatments can damage the DNA of eggs and induce their death, leading to premature ovarian failure and infertility. Currently, no options exist to protect the ovary from damage and preserve fertility of young women being treated for cancer.
Our team is investigating new strategies to protect the ovary and preserve fertility following radiation and chemotherapy through the inhibition of egg death. Using gene targeted mouse models, we have found that elimination of the potent cell killers PUMA and NOXA, protects eggs from radiation-induced death. We have also shown that the surviving eggs can repair their damaged DNA and are of sufficient quality to produce healthy offspring.
These studies provide strong support for the concept that fertility may be safely and effectively preserved during anti-cancer treatment by inhibiting genes required for egg death, such as PUMA and NOXA. We are now working with our collaborators from the Walter & Eliza Hall Institute and the Royal Women’s Hospital to confirm our findings in the human ovary and to develop novel, clinically relevant, fertoprotective adjuvant therapies.
- Monash University, Melbourne
- Walter & Eliza Hall Institute, Melbourne
- Melbourne IVF
- University of Edinburgh