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April 2015

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Medical oncologist Professor Kelly-Anne Phillips.

Fertility protection trial

Options for younger women undergoing chemotherapy and potentially facing early menopause have received a boost at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

The Pharmaceutical and Therapeutics Advisory Committee has approved the use of goserelin hormone therapy (marketed as Zolodex) to prevent menopausal symptoms and protect fertility in eligible patients.

The decision comes after research undertaken by medical oncologist Kelly-Anne Phillips – showing a monthly injection of goserelin helped prevent chemotherapy-induced menopause – was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Professor Phillips was the chair of the prevention of early menopause study (POEMS) across 20 sites in Australia, Europe and New Zealand.

She said gosrelin disrupted the body’s hormonal feedback systems and caused temporary menopause, in effect inducing temporary ‘hibernation’ of the ovaries of women with breast cancer.

‘POEMS showed pre-menopausal women with breast cancer, who received goserelin during chemotherapy, had a 64 per cent reduction in their chance of early menopause and were almost twice as likely to have had a baby after the end of their cancer treatment, compared with women who didn’t received the injections.

‘In the study, of young women with hormone-receptor negative breast cancer, we found eight per cent of women who received monthly injections of goserelin with their chemotherapy were in menopause two years later, compared with 22 per cent of women who had chemotherapy alone.’

Professor Phillips said the approval of goserelin at Peter Mac was an important step to helping younger women with breast cancer avoid early menopause.

‘Today, eligible women with breast cancer, who are receiving treatment at Peter Mac, have access to this important supportive care therapy, which is great news.

‘We hope in coming months and years the proven benefit of goserelin becomes more widely available to other women in the same position,’ Professor Phillips said.