Breast Cancer Drug Provides Surprising Hope to Infertile Women
A breast cancer drug called Letrozole is providing surprising new hope for the more than five million women in the U.S. who struggle with infertility due to ovulation disorders. The drug has been shown in clinical trials to promote ovulation and increase conception rates, while reducing the risk of multiple gestations –- a critical risk factor to both mother and baby during pregnancy.
Norwalk, CT (PRWEB) July 7, 2005 –- A breast cancer drug called Letrozole is providing surprising new hope for the more than five million women in the U.S. who struggle with infertility due to ovulation disorders. The drug has been shown in clinical trials to promote ovulation and increase conception rates, while reducing the risk of multiple gestations –- a critical risk factor to both mother and baby during pregnancy.
A study in the February 2005 American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, confirms that women who took Letrozole – alone or with injectable fertility medications– were just as likely to conceive and remain pregnant as those who took other ovulation stimulators, and more likely to achieve pregnancy than those on placebo. However, study authors note that the women who took Letrozole had “a significantly lower rate of multiple gestation compared with clomiphene citrate [Clomid],” which is one of the most popular first-line treatments for ovulation stimulation.
“The risks to women and their babies associated with multiple gestation pregnancies just can’t be overstated,” notes Dr. Mark Leondires, MD, a board-certified endocrinologist and medical director at Reproductive Medicine Associates of CT. Multiple gestations are linked to increased rates of premature birth, birth defects and a host of other maternal-fetal issues. In fact, a November 2004 data review by the Centers for Disease Control shows that the pregnancy-related death rate in the U.S. is approximately 8 per 100,000 for singleton pregnancies; for multiple gestations –- from twins to sextuplets and beyond – the rate more than quadruples, to nearly 37 per 100,000. “So, when a drug like Letrozole shows so much promise in addressing the challenge of anovulation successfully, while reducing the incidence of multiple gestations associated with other drugs, the reproductive community gets excited,” Dr. Leondires adds.
Ovulation disorders can be categorized two ways – oligo-ovulation is the term for infrequent ovulation, while anovulation is the term for a complete lack of ovulation. Both conditions are usually caused by hormone imbalances, stemming either from malfunction of the hypothalamus and/or pituitary glands, or from a disease called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. While researchers are unsure of its exact mechanism, Letrozole seems to restore ovulation by blocking the enzyme in women that converts male hormones (androgens) to female hormones (estrogens). “It is possible that this restores a better hormone balance in women with ovulation disorders,” Dr. Leondires confirms. “This seems to help secondary aspects of their infertility as well,” he adds. “For example, women in some Letrozole studies have shown thicker endometriums at mid-cycle, which is associated with a better chance for implantation of the fertilized egg.”
Another study shows that Letrozole can be less costly and can require lower doses of medications than other first-line treatments as well. In the September, 2004 Journal of Social Gynecologic Investigation, researchers found that lower doses of Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) were needed to induce ovulation in women with PCOS when Letrozole was administered in combination with FSH, as opposed to administering FSH alone. “Whenever we can reduce the amount of medication needed to achieve a desired result, there is a benefit,” Dr. Leondires explains. “In addition to cost-effectiveness, we also achieve a better quality of life for the patient when we can lessen the frequency or amount of medication she needs to take.”
The same hormone-neutralizing action that makes Letrozole effective as a fertility medication is responsible for its popularity as a breast cancer drug. It has been used safely for a number of years in women with postmenopausal “estrogen-receptor” breast cancer. “Letrozole is giving so many women new hope,” Dr. Leondires notes. “Just as this drug has helped women overcome breast cancer, we believe that it will continue to provide help to millions of women who struggle with the inability to achieve a healthy pregnancy and delivery,” he concludes.
Dr. Mark P. Leondires, M.D., FACOG, is a leading authority on reproductive medicine. Dr. Leondires is board certified in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. He is a member of the Society of Reproductive Endocrinologists, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Dr. Leondires earned his medical degree from the University of Vermont College of Medicine and completed his residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine. Dr. Leondires completed a fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. After completion of his training, he fulfilled his military obligation by serving as the ART Director for the largest and most successful program in the military health care system at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. During this time he was an Assistant Professor at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences and clinical faculty for the Combined Fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology. Dr. Leondires is currently Medical Director and lead physician with Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut (RMA-CT) in Norwalk. Along with numerous teaching and research activities, Dr. Leondires has published articles in professional medical journals, national consumer magazines and newspapers, as well as abstracts and book chapters. More information about Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut is available at www.rmact.com .