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New and Improved treatments

Do targeted breast cancer treatments used for BRCA1/2 carriers impair fertility?

Monash University Associate Professor

Karla Hutt

Project Description: In young women, standard of care treatments for breast cancer, such as chemotherapy, can sometimes impair ovarian function, leading to infertility, lower estrogen levels and early menopause. There is currently limited information on the impact of newer targeted treatments for patients carrying BRCA1/2 mutations, such as PARP inhibitors, on ovarian health. Similarly, little is known about the impact of immunotherapies, a new class of cancer treatment, on the ovary and fertility in women with breast cancer. As these studies are not possible in young women, this project aims to determine the impact of PARP inhibitors and immunotherapy on ovarian health, estrogen levels and fertility in pre-clinical models.  

Why This Work is Needed: Around 7% of breast cancer diagnoses are in young women that have not started or completed their family planning. Information on whether new breast cancer treatments such as PARP inhibitors or immunotherapy can affect ovarian function and fertility is required to give young breast cancer patients the option to make an informed decision about receiving a specific treatment. It is not yet known whether new breast cancer treatments, such as the PARP inhibitor Olaparib, or immunotherapies, affect female fertility and cause early menopause. 

Expected Outcomes: Outcomes from this project provide the first information on whether PARP inhibitors or immunotherapy can decrease fertility in a pre-clinical mouse model. The results may yield important information about whether fertility should be a factor considered when administering these new treatments for the clinical management of breast cancer in BRCA1/2 mutation carriers.  

Project Details  

Breast cancer often affects young women, with around 1 in 14 cases diagnosed in those who have not yet completed their family planning. Hence, early menopause and fertility are major concerns for young breast cancer patients. This research project, led by A/Prof Karla Hutt from Monash University, will determine whether novel breast cancer treatments such as the PARP inhibitor Olaparib and immunotherapies result in decreased fertility. 

The project will test whether Olaparib or immunotherapy decrease the number and quality of eggs or prevent pregnancy in mouse models of breast cancer. Mouse models will be used that carry known changes in the BRCA1/2 genes to recapitulate the real-world setting in young women. The results will give an indication of whether these targeted treatments will affect fertility in young women and may lead to the development of new drugs to preserve fertility in breast cancer patients. 

Monash University Associate Professor

Karla Hutt