Scientists pioneer fertility preserving therapy for children’s cancer

December 30th, 2007 - 4:51 pm ICT by admin  


London, Dec 30 (ANI): Scottish researchers have launched a revolutionary new therapy for one of most common children’s cancers, Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Hodgkin’s lymphoma is characterized clinically by the orderly spread of disease from one lymph node group to another and by the development of systemic symptoms with advanced disease.

Previous treatments for the disease have the devastating side effect of damaging the reproductive system and leaving patients unable to have babies of their own.

But, trials on patients in Edinburgh have revealed that giving minimum doses of chemotherapy and avoiding treatment with radiotherapy altogether is very effective in treating the cancer without the side effects.

Dr Hamish Wallace, a consultant paediatric oncologist at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh and president of the European Network for Paediatric Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, said that the discovery would offer reassurance to parents with children facing a battle against cancer.

“I feel really positive about patients with Hodgkin’s because we can get them better. This type of cancer is very curable for many youngsters. But it has left them infertile because the treatment is potentially sterilising, the Scotsman quoted Wallace, as saying.

“In boys it can leave them with no sperm and in girls it can damage their supply of eggs and bring on an early menopause. We hope to no longer sterilise our survivors. It’s all a balance. We want to cure them, leave them fertile, and not give them further malignancies. This is a new regimen, he added.

In the treatment, patients will first be assessed to see how advanced their cancer is. They will be given two doses of chemotherapy and then they will be scanned using positron emission tomography (PET) to see how the cancer is responding.

The PET scan can show how well chemotherapy is working by using a radioactive substance injected into the body. If cancers response is well, no radiation will be used, and up to half of all patients are expected not to need it.

Those with more advanced cancer will be given a further two doses of chemotherapy and monitored by PET scan, while those with the most advanced cancer will be given six doses of chemotherapy. Radiation would only be used as a last resort if the cancer was not responding to treatment.

In addition to reducing the dose of radiotherapy, there will be changes in the type of chemotherapy given to children. One commonly used chemotherapy drug, procarbazine, will be removed from the treatment regime because it has the side-effect of affecting patients’ fertility by damaging boys’ sperm production and causing an early menopause in girls.

Dacarbazine will be used in its place, which is less likely to affect fertility. In addition, doctors will attempt to limit the dosage of another chemotherapy drug, anthracycline, which can cause heart failure later in life. (ANI)

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