Chemotherapy (especially high-dose) can damage the ovaries and, in many cases, cause permanent infertility. In a recent test, however, a combination of two drugs, taken as little as 96 hours before the commencement of chemotherapy, protected ovaries from its toxic effects and allowed the patients to become pregnant in the future.

At the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society in San Diego, Dr. Marta Snajderova, from University Hospital-Motol in Prague, reported that her research team tested a combination of two drugs on 19 teenage girls who were about to begin a regimen of chemotherapy for leukemia or related cancers.

The two drugs, known as cetrorelix and D-Trp6-GNRHa, block the hormone signals that stimulate the ovaries to function. When this occurs, the ovaries become similar to those in girls who have not yet reached puberty. Prior studies have shown that prepubertal girls have greater resistance to the toxic effects of chemotherapy.

The good thing about this particular form of ovary protection is that it takes effect so quickly (within 96 hours) thereby permitting the prompt commencement of chemotherapy. Although there are other methods available to protect the ovaries, the fact that they can take as long as 14 to 18 days to take effect renders them unusable in most cases.

Nine girls completed chemotherapy as well as the ovary protection protocol. Of that group, seven have resumed normal menstrual cycles suggesting their ovaries were protected from any significant damage. Dr. Snajderova believes that these preliminary results are "very promising" and could result in this treatment protocol being used routinely for fertility preservation in young women undergoing chemotherapy if the results are confirmed in a larger test group.

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