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Helping Young Women to Have a Family After Breast Cancer
The POEMS clinical trial offered a new treatment option for young women with breast cancer, to better preserve their fertility during cancer treatment.
Chemotherapy is usually given to women with breast cancer to destroy any remaining cancer cells after surgery and to prevent these cells from growing and spreading to other parts of the body. One in four breast cancer patients are premenopausal and, unfortunately, a common long term side effect of this treatment is early menopause. In addition to avoiding the potential long term medical problems resulting from early menopause (such as osteoporosis and heart disease), many young women also wish to avoid infertility which may result from treatment.
In the Prevention of Early Menopause Study (POEMS), premenopausal women between the ages of 18 to 49 with breast cancer received standard chemotherapy with or without goserelin every four weeks. The drug goserelin disrupts the body’s hormonal feedback systems, resulting in reduced estrogen production that puts the women into a reversible menopause. POEMS examined whether goserelin treatment allowed the women’s ovaries to recover after chemotherapy while not interfering with the cancer treatment itself.
The study found that women who received goserelin were less likely to be in menopause two years after their cancer treatment (8% compared with 22%) and were twice as likely to have a normal pregnancy after their cancer treatment.
POEMS was conducted in Australia and New Zealand by Breast Cancer Trials and globally by the SouthWest Oncology Group (USA). 256 women participated in the study worldwide and 58 women came from Australia and New Zealand.
Professor Kelly-Anne Phillips is the Australasian and European Study Chair of the POEMS clinical trial and said the results are a major step forward in reducing side effects of chemotherapy for premenopausal women with breast cancer.
“These results are fantastic news for young women with breast cancer who require treatment with chemotherapy and want to have children,” Professor Phillips said. “I have seen first-hand how young women with breast cancer have been able to go on to have healthy, happy babies following their cancer treatment, which is a wonderful result.”
“More than 20% of the women who participated in the study came from Australia and New Zealand, which demonstrates the commitment of our local researchers and women who are participating in this important research.”