Young women with cancer often suffer premature ovarian failure and thus infertility after chemotherapy or radiation therapy. There hasn't been a way to protect women against such damage, says Fran�ois Paris of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
However, in the October 2000 Nature Medicine, he and his colleagues showed that a compound called sphingosine-1-phosphate, given before anticancer radiation, protects mouse ovaries. Now, the researchers report that the drug permits pregnancy after radiation exposure.
Before applying radiation, the researchers gave some female mice sphingosine-1-phosphate and others a placebo. After the treatments, 88 percent of mice receiving the drug became pregnant and gave birth, but only 38 percent of placebo-treated females did. The researchers haven't yet seen any chromosomal abnormality in the offspring of the treated group, another indication that the drug protects ovaries from radiation damage.