Being diagnosed with cancer can be life-altering, especially if you’re a woman trying to conceive. Fortunately, cancer treatments like those that block apoptotic responses to preserve fertility enable women to undergo the radiation and chemotherapy treatments needed to save their lives without impeding their ability to have children. This form of cancer treatment has been a godsend to many women as it minimizes the likelihood of premature ovarian insufficiencies as well as the threat of infertility.
Fertoprotective Cancer Treatments
While cancer treatments are designed to save lives, they often leave patients feeling weaker and sicker than the disease itself. When it comes to assisted reproductive technologies aimed at preserving a woman’s fertility, many of these treatments can cause tissue and ovary damage. Although reproductive technologies are used in tandem with traditional cancer treatments, they don’t always help in preserving the natural function of a woman’s ovaries. Blocking apoptotic responses to preserve fertility is a relatively new fertoprotective cancer treatment that works to eliminate oocyte (a cell within the ovary) damage through programmed cell death, commonly referred to as apoptosis.
Benefit of Fertoprotective Cancer Treatments
While men are capable of producing new sperm cells indefinitely, women have a limited number of oocytes. Also, they are unable to produce more oocytes to replace the ones that have been depleted. Traditional cancer treatments, particularly chemotherapy and radiation, prematurely deplete these oocytes. For many women, these treatments also trigger early menopause and osteoporosis.
How Does Blocking Apoptosis Aid in Preserving Fertility?
Fertoprotective cancer treatments are designed to kill cells if DNA damage is observed. Apoptosis naturally occurs in oocytes when combined with p63, an enzyme that attaches to specific regions of DNA and helps regulate gene activity. However, this natural process is interrupted once a patient undergoes cancer treatment. According to a study conducted by the Institute for Biophysical Chemistry of Goethe University based in Germany, the premature depletion of oocytes stems from chemotherapy and radiation treatments that have modified the p63 enzyme. This scientific revelation has led to new cancer treatments that work to preserve oocytes without compromising the effectiveness of chemotherapy and radiation treatments for women.
The Science Behind Blocking Apoptosis
In discovering the correlation between the early depletion of oocytes and chemotherapeutics, the framework for developing treatments that would ensure women of childbearing age would be able to have children following cancer remediation was born. Unlike regular cells, cancer cells have a tendency to bifurcate more frequently, which makes them more susceptible to damage caused by chemotherapy and radiation.
As a result, the medical community has worked diligently to come up with alternative treatments that help preserve oocytes while women receive the cancer treatment that they so desperately need. That said, fertoprotective treatments are helping more women realize their dreams of motherhood following cancer treatment.