A pilot study conducted by Canadian researchers highlights the effect of chemotherapy on male fertility before and after puberty.
“It is often thought that cancer treatments for prepubescent boys will have no effect on their fertility because their testicles would be ‘dormant.’ But in fact, the prepubertal testis are not immune to chemotherapy that affects dividing cells and it is now well recognized that there can be long-term effects,” explains Géraldine Delbès, a professor at the Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique (INRS) in Laval.
Delbès conducted a pilot study in collaboration with oncologists and fertility specialists from the McGill University Health Centre on 13 patients, all survivors of pediatric leukemia and lymphoma. Their results, recently published in the journal Plos One, raise important questions about male fertility and the long-term quality of life of cancer survivors.
Delbès is particularly interested in anthracyclines, which are used in the treatment of several cancers. The researchers show that these anthracyclines, which should have no long-term effect on the quantity of sperm, could potentially affect its quality. According to Professor Delbès, the use of anthracyclines is thought to be correlated with abnormalities in chromatin and sperm DNA over the long term. These abnormalities are often associated with infertility problems and poor embryonic development.