Fertility experts in the US have discovered that the cancer drug Taximofen may boost fertility after a woman with breast cancer gave birth to twins when the drug was used to stimulate her ovaries for IVF. The discovery was announced in a study published in the journal Human Reproduction.
The researchers, from Cornell University, New York, studied 12 breast cancer survivors, finding that stimulating the ovaries with 'a short, carefully timed course of Taximofen' increased the numbers of eggs they could retrieve. All of the women were able to create at least one embryo either to be immediately implanted, or to be frozen for later use. Two fresh embryos were transferred to one woman, resulting in the twins. Another woman also became pregnant, but later miscarried.
Professor Kutluk Oktay, the team leader, undertook the experiment as part of research to find a safe way of preserving fertility in breast cancer patients of reproductive age. Taximofen has a suppressive, 'anti-oestrogenic' effect on breast cancer, yet was known to stimulate ovarian follicle growth. 'Sometimes the best ideas are the obvious ones', said professor Oktay, adding 'we hypothesised that Taximofen stimulation would result in higher numbers of embryos compared with natural cycle IVF, while theoretically shielding breast cancer cells against oestrogen'.
Kate Law, head of clinical trials for Cancer Research UK said that while the research may be good news, it should be treated with caution. She said the trial 'consisted of 12 women, one of whom has given birth successfully, and there has been no long-term follow-up to identify any potential hazards associated with the treatment'.