Infertility attributed to cancer treatments in men can be avoided with a drug that is also used prevent infections in cancer patients.
Cancer treatments often cease sperm production in men, leaving them infertile, but researchers at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), have found that a drug could restore sperm generation in men who undergo chemo or radiotherapy.
After working in the field for several years, the researchers discovered the action of a drug capable of restarting sperm production in men, who had undergone treatment for cancer in childhood.
The drug is called G-CSF (granulocyte-colony-stimulating factor), and it works by stimulating the bone marrow to produce neutrophils—the white blood cells that infections, and which are generally lost after chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments.
The study, led by Brian Hermann, assistant professor of biology at UTSA, was published here in Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology.
The researchers said that while conducting other experiments, they realised that G-CSF unexpectedly began regenerating sperm.
“We were using G-CSF to prevent infections in our research experiments,” Hermann said. “It turned out that the drug also had the unexpected impact of guarding against male infertility.”
What can we expect further?
Hermann’s laboratory is exclusively focused on regenerating dead testicular tissue through the use of stem cells, which makes this project an exciting albeit unexpected deviation that he hopes to continue working on.
The next step would be to observe if cancer patients see any improvement in their fertility with the use of the drug, which is already prescribed often by oncologists. In the meantime, Hermann is focussed on trying to figure the working of stem cells that can make male reproduction possible, so we can have better solutions to treating male infertility.
“Male infertility is an intuitive disease and we need creative solutions,” he said. “But we need to understand how things work before we can fix them.”
As of now, men have the option of having their sperm frozen before they start the cancer treatments but we look forward to a drug that can help restore fertility in men.