Protective treatment with the GnRH agonist triptorelin failed to prevent chemotherapy-induced premature ovarian failure in young women with lymphoma, according to a report published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
This type of protective therapy has been used for at least 20 years but is still controversial. Some clinical practice guidelines endorse the practice, but others do not. The evidence is both sparse and ambiguous, said Isabelle Demeestere, MD, of the research laboratory on human reproduction, Université Libre de Bruxelles (Belgium), and her associates.
In what they described as “the first randomized clinical trial providing accurate information on ovarian function and fertility after a median of 5 years of follow-up,” the investigators assessed 67 young women (median age, 26 years) treated for Hodgkin’s or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at 15 cancer centers in France, Belgium, and Italy. These patients had been randomly assigned to receive chemotherapy plus triptorelin (32 women) or chemotherapy plus placebo injections (35 women) at baseline.
Premature ovarian failure, as measured by elevated FSH levels, occurred in six of the GnRH group and eight of the control group, a nonsignificant difference. Moreover, the rate of recovery of ovarian function, as measured by at least one FSH level of 15 IU/L or less, was the same between the two study groups. And 17 women (53%) in the GnRH group eventually achieved pregnancy, which is not significantly different from the 43% pregnancy rate in the control group (15 of 35 women).
Five women – two in the GnRH group and three in the control group – achieved pregnancy during long-term follow-up, even though they had been classified as having premature ovarian failure. This “confirms the possibility of incidental ovarian cycle recovery, leading to fertility restoration several years after treatment in this young population,” Dr. Demeestere and her associates wrote (J Clin Oncol. 2016. [doi:10.1200/JCO.2015.65.884]).
The study findings “suggest caution” regarding guidelines that recommend using GnRH agonists to preserve fertility in young women undergoing chemotherapy, they added.