How a cancer drug helped one woman get pregnant

A 35-year-old Florida woman had been unable to get pregnant for 14 years, but her fertility problems were resolved in a most unusual way: A chemotherapy drug that she was given after being diagnosed with cancer triggered her ovaries to function better, a new case report reveals.

The woman was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and had surgery to remove the cancerous growth. Then, she was treated with the chemotherapy drug gemcitabine.

The gemcitabine likely restored the woman’s ability to ovulate and become pregnant, according to the case report, published online (July 11) in the Journal of Medical Case Reports.


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The woman had previously been diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) , which is one of the most common causes of infertility in women , the report said. The condition is caused by an imbalance of reproductive hormones , and it interferes with the growth and release of eggs from a woman’s ovaries during ovulation each month.

“Gemcitabine was the only new variable that may have changed her hormonal ratios,” said Dr. Stephen J. Carlan, one of the case report authors and the director of research in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Orlando Regional Healthcare in Orlando, Florida. For most patients with cancer, this chemotherapy drug is known to be toxic to the ovaries , he noted.

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