A drug used to combat leukaemia also helps to prevent infertility associated with chemotherapy treatment for other cancers, according to research.
It is known that many chemotherapy drugs include the compound cisplatin, which causes cancer cells to self-destruct in a process known as apoptosis.
But cisplatin also causes DNA damage and death in immature egg cells, resulting in infertility and genetic abnormalities in offspring.
Research by Dr Stefania Gonfloni at the University of Rome found that the c-Abl enzyme, which plays a key role in passing on the self-destruct instruction, is inhibited by the leukaemia drug imatinib, marketed as Glivec in the UK and Gleevec in the US.
He says: “This has considerable medical implications, as it raises the possibility that imatinib, or other c-Abl inhibitors, could be used to preserve female fertility during chemotherapy.”
Copyright Press Association 2009