Gynaecologic concerns for young women exposed to gonadotoxic chemotherapy

Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol. 2003 Oct;15(5):359-70. doi: 10.1097/00001703-200310000-00003.


Purpose of review: Due to the improved long-term survival of adolescents and young women with systemic malignancies such as lymphomas and leukaemia undergoing gonadotoxic chemotherapy, preservation of future fertility has been the focus of recent ubiquitous interest. This review summarizes, in brief, the recent progress in the various attempts to prevent premature ovarian failure in these young women with unconsumed fertility potential.

Recent findings: The investigational endeavours of ovarian cryopreservation await the clinical experience of auto- or xenotransplantation, or in-vitro maturation of thawed primordial follicles, and in-vitro fertilization. Although promising, this procedure is not available yet. Moreover, the risk of possible reimplantation of malignant stem cells with the thawed cryopreserved ovary has been highlighted following experimental animal observations. The gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist has been efficient in primates in a prospective study, and in young women in several nonrandomized series. The disruption of the acid sphingomyelinase gene, or sphingosine-1-phosphate, in rodents can prevent follicle destruction by ionizing radiation, possibly indicating in-vivo protection in cancer patients at risk of iatrogenic sterilization.

Summary: The recent enormous scientific advance lends hope that the future may hold answers to the questions regarding safety and efficiency of oocyte, follicle, or ovarian tissue cryopreservation, and the most efficient means of using the thawed tissue - auto-, hetero-, or xenotransplantation versus IVM on the one hand, and in-vivo pharmacological attempts to minimize follicle depletion by gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist or other modalities on the other hand. Until then, a combination of all the clinically available modalities should be offered to these young women with unconsumed fertility potential who face gonadotoxic therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Cryopreservation
  • Female
  • Fertility*
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Hodgkin Disease / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Primary Ovarian Insufficiency / chemically induced
  • Primary Ovarian Insufficiency / prevention & control*
  • Reproductive Techniques
  • Survivors*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone