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Breast Cancer Drug Letrozole, New Treatment for Infertility Caused by PCOS
- Updated: July 10, 2014
The new study, funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, finds that breast cancer drug letrozole can help women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) get pregnant. Researchers at the Penn State College of Medicine compared the effects of commonly prescribed drug clomiphene with letrozole used as a breast cancer treatment in postmenopausal women whose cancers are estrogen-driven.
For the study, researchers recruited 750 infertile women aged 18-40 with PCOS, who wanted to conceive.
According to the study, almost 28 percent of the women taking letrozole had babies after five cycles, compared with about 19 percent of those taking clomiphene.
Richard Legro, lead author of the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, said: “Clomiphene has its drawbacks. It’s only 22% successful with up to six cycles of treatment in producing a successful birth, it has a high multiple-pregnancy rate in comparison to unassisted conception, and it has side effects, including hot flashes and mood changes.”
“We will need other studies to show that the rates of birth defects are actually low — lower than we would expect in an infertile population,” he said.
However, there were drawbacks with letrozole. Side effects, on the other hand, had different strength. Among those given letrozole, 22% had fatigue, 20% had hot flashes, and 12% experienced dizziness. To compared, 33% of women taking clomiphene developed hot flashes, 15% had fatigue, and 8% suffered from dizziness.
According to Charles Coddington, a professor at Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic and president of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, who was not involved in the study, the results may encourage doctors to try letrozole first for infertility treatment. At the same time he advises doctors to confirm the results with additional studies.