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New role for tamoxifen as fertility drug for breast cancer patients?

US fertility experts have discovered a potential new role for the wonder drug tamoxifen helping breast cancer patients to have babies by IVF.

In a study published in Europe's leading reproductive medicine journal Human Reproduction[1], researchers from New York's Cornell University report the first IVF pregnancy to result from the use of tamoxifen as an ovarian stimulant.

In a study of 12 breast cancer survivors they found that stimulating the ovaries with a short, carefully timed course of tamoxifen boosted the number of eggs they could retrieve. Every patient had one or more embryos either for freezing for later attempts at pregnancy, or for immediate transfer. One patient who had two fresh embryos transferred has already given birth to twins. Another patient conceived on her second attempt although she miscarried. None of the patients with frozen embryos has yet attempted pregnancy.

Lead researcher Professor Kutluk Oktay said that the experiment arose from a desire to find a safe way of preserving fertility among the 15% of breast cancer patients around 27,000 annually in the USA who were still of reproductive age when they were diagnosed.

Chemotherapy causes ovarian failure in many patients nearly as many as four out of five women in the case of those given cyclophosphamide. Even those who remain fertile or don't have chemotherapy face the problem of needing a recurrence-free period of perhaps two to five years before trying to conceive, bringing them up against the barrier of infertility due to ageing and diminishing ovarian reserves.

"These women can try natural cycle IVF without ovarian stimulation, but typically, no more than a single embryo can be achieved for immediate use or freezing. So, we need to find a safe way of increasing the number of embryos to give these women a better chance of having a baby," said Professor Oktay, assistant professor of Reproductive Medicine and Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the
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Contact: Magaret Willson
m.willson@mwcommunications.org.uk
44-153-677-2181
European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology
7-Jan-2003


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