NTP Monograph: Developmental Effects and Pregnancy Outcomes Associated With Cancer Chemotherapy Use During Pregnancy

NTP Monogr. 2013 May:(2):i-214.


The National Toxicology Program (NTP) Office of Health Assessment and Translation (OHAT) conducted an evaluation of the developmental effects and pregnancy outcomes associated with cancer chemotherapy use during pregnancy in humans. The final NTP monograph was completed in May 2013 (available at http:// ntp.niehs.nih.gov/go/36495). The incidence of cancer during pregnancy has been reported to occur from 17 to 100 per 100,000 pregnant women. Chemotherapy is a common treatment for cancer; however, most chemotherapy agents are classified as known or suspected human teratogens. Cancer chemotherapy use during pregnancy was selected for evaluation by the NTP because of the: (1) paucity of comprehensive reviews on the pregnancy outcomes following cancer chemotherapy use during pregnancy in humans, including the integration of the developmental animal toxicology literature with the observational studies in humans, and (2) growing public interest in the developmental effects of chemotherapy on offspring exposed to cancer chemotherapy during gestation due to the expected incidence of cancer diagnosed during pregnancy as women delay pregnancy to later ages. Of the approximately 110 cancer chemotherapeutic agents currently in use, the NTP monograph includes data on 56 agents used during 1,261 pregnancies for which pregnancy outcomes were documented. Overall, the NTP evaluation found that treatment with chemotherapy for cancer appeared to be associated with: (1) a higher rate of major malformations following exposure during the first trimester compared to exposure in the second and/or third trimester; (2) an increase the rate of stillbirth following exposure in the second and/ or third trimester; abnormally low levels of amniotic fluid (primarily attributable to Trastuzumab); and (3), also data are insufficient, impaired fetal growth and myelosuppression. Treatment with chemotherapy for cancer during pregnancy did not appear to increase spontaneous preterm birth, or impair normal growth and development of offspring during early life. In addition, the NTP monograph provides background materials on individual cancer chemotherapeutic agents (e.g., evidence for placenta and breast milk transport, developmental toxicity in animals), and a brief review of the prevalence and prognosis of seven frequently diagnosed cancers in women during pregnancy. Finally, the NTP monograph identifies challenges in interpreting the health outcomes from this observational literature base and discussed possible actions to improve the understanding of the developmental effects of chemotherapy treatment for cancer administered during pregnancy.