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mesothelioma chemotherapy

AS101 prevents male fertility loss after chemotherapy

New Scientist, June 20, 2006

An injection of an experimental drug could protect men against losing their fertility while undergoing cancer chemotherapy. The drug prevents the loss of testicular mass usually associated with chemotherapy when it is given to mice in combination with conventional cancer drugs.

The drug, called AS101, has already been shown to protect against hair loss and bone marrow damage caused by chemotherapy, and also makes tumours more receptive to treatment. It is currently in phase II clinical trials in humans for those purposes.

Chemotherapy can cause male infertility by reducing the number of sperm produced or by affecting the sperm’s ability to fertilise a female egg. Sometimes this is temporary but it is estimated to be permanent in between 45% and 80% of cases, depending on the type of drug used and how long it is given for.

Men and boys who have to undergo chemotherapy are usually advised to freeze a sample of their sperm as a precaution.

Taxol trial

To investigate whether AS101 could prevent infertility caused by the widely used chemotherapy drug Taxol, Alon Carmely at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel, gave healthy mice either Taxol alone, Taxol plus AS101, AS101 alone, or no drug at all.

After 30 days the mice were killed and their testes were weighed and examined. A single dose of Taxol caused significant testicular weight loss compared with the control group, but the testes of mice given Taxol in combination with AS101 showed only minimal weight loss.

Tissue analysis showed only minor testicular damage to the mice injected with AS101 and Taxol, and the researchers also found mature sperm. When the experiment was repeated with the chemotherapy drugs cyclophosphamide and procarbazine, AS101 showed an even better protective effect.

“These results hold out much promise for fertility preservation in men undergoing cancer treatments,” says Carmely, who presented his results at a meeting of the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology in Prague, Czech Republic, on Tuesday.

Exactly how the drug prevents damage is unclear, although it is known to stimulate the immune system. “Our work suggests that in addition to the direct damage caused by the treatment, significant testicular damage is caused by the immune reaction to it,” says Carmely.

He plans to begin clinical trials of AS101 for preventing human infertility in cancer patients in the coming months

 

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