Preventing Eggs’ Death from Chemotherapy

Scientists discover cause of immature eggs’ death from cancer drug and how to prevent it

MEDIA CONTACT: Marla Paul at (312) 503-8928 or

CHICAGO — Young women who have cancer treatment often lose their fertility because chemotherapy and radiation can damage or kill their immature ovarian eggs, called oocytes. Now, Northwestern Medicine® scientists have found the molecular pathway that can prevent the death of immature ovarian eggs due to chemotherapy, potentially preserving fertility and endocrine function.

Scientists achieved this in female mice by adding a currently approved chemotherapy drug, imatinib mesylate, to another chemotherapy drug cisplatin.

The results will be presented Monday, June 17, at The Endocrine Society’s 95th Annual Meeting in San Francisco.

“This research advances the efforts to find a medical treatment to protect the fertility and hormone health of girls and young women during cancer treatment, “ said So-Youn Kim, the lead investigator and a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Teresa Woodruff, chief of fertility preservation at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Adding imatinib mesylate to the drug cisplatin blocks the action of a protein that triggers a cascade of events resulting in death of the immature eggs. Kim discovered the protein that triggers the oocyte’s ultimate death is Tap63.

Previous research suggested that imatinib is a fertility-protecting drug against cisplatin, but reports of the drug’s effectiveness have been contradictory, Kim said. Her research confirms its effectiveness in an animal model.

She is currently testing imatinib with other chemotherapy agents to see if it also protects fertility in combination with them.

To demonstrate that imatinib protects oocytes against cisplatin, Kim and colleagues cultured ovaries (containing the immature eggs) from five-day-old mice with imatinib and cisplatin for 96 hours. The ovaries were then placed in a kidney capsule in the host mice to keep the ovaries alive. Two weeks later, the immature eggs were still alive. The imatinib did not block cisplatin-induced DNA damage, but Kim believes the eggs may recover and repair the damage over time.

“Previous reports have shown that chemotherapy and radiation-treated oocytes are able to recover from DNA damage,” Kim said.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health, grant U54 HD076188.


New Study Aims to Better Understand the Cause of “Chemo Brain”

Below is a guest post by Anthony J. Ryals, PhD, discussing a new study underway at Northwestern University looking at the effect chemotherapy and hormone depletion have on memory and cognition in cancer survivors. 

By Anthony J. Ryals, PhD

Prior research has indicated that up to 90% of chemotherapy recipients also receiving hormone depletion therapy (such as Tamoxifen) report disruptions in cognition including memory, attention, and planning. This type of disruption, sometimes termed “chemo fog” or “chemo brain”, has recently gained recognition as a problem by many clinicians, yet there is a clear lack of understanding regarding how or why it occurs. Our research study, Examining the Effects of Chemotherapy and Hormone Depletion on Memory and Cognition, is aimed at understanding how chemotherapy and hormone depletion affect memory and cognition in breast cancer survivors.

The purpose of this study is to help find out what specifically happens to the brain that leads to these disruptions. By learning more about how chemotherapy and hormone depletion therapy affect cognition, we hope that our research can be used to improve quality of life outcomes for cancer survivors as well as to help clinicians and caregivers better understand the condition.

This research will utilize a method known as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to record the activity of the brain. MRI is very safe. It is a completely non-invasive procedure, which means that no needles, chemicals, or radiation are used in the procedure. Participants will be asked to perform basic tasks, which may require them to respond to visual stimuli presented on a computer screen.

Eligibility criteria for participation:

  • You cannot currently be pregnant
  • You must be right handed
  • You must be between 18 and 45 years of age
  • You must have received chemotherapy treatment with (or without) hormone depletion therapy in the last 6-12 months
  • You cannot have certain implants or devices that are metallic in your body. MRI machines use a strong magnetic field, and metallic objects may be hazardous and/or interfere with the procedure.

This study will take approximately two hours, and it will take place at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. You will receive $60.00 for your participation and be reimbursed for travel expenses. If interested, please email Alyssa at or call the Northwestern University lab for human neuroscience at 312-503-5613.

TOMORROW: Virtual Grand Rounds Talks Sexuality After Cancer

murthy.cfmTomorrow, June 13th, we are excited to be hosting Kamaljeet Murthy, MD, Instructor of Obstetrics & Gynecology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, for our Virtual Grand Rounds (VGR) at 10 AM CDT, entitled, “Sexual Side Effects from the Treatment of Gynecologic Cancer.” Treatment for certain cancers can affect sexuality, causing a range of signs and symptoms that may have an impact on your sex life. The many physical and emotional changes that follow a cancer diagnosis can also affect sex and intimacy.  Knowing more about different cancers and their impact on sexuality, may provide solutions if problems develop. Click HERE to watch Dr. Murthy present her Virtual Grand Rounds, tomorrow at 10 AM CDT.

Our LIVE Virtual Grand Rounds provide researchers, clinicians, and others the opportunity to hear emerging research findings in cancer and fertility from anywhere across the globe and participate through a live video chat. Virtual and in-person attendees to the rounds can receive free continuing medical education (CME) credits by following the instructions HERE.  Participants can also receive free CME’s by watching a recorded version of the Virtual Grand Rounds which can be found on our website HERE. To read more about receiving education credits from the Oncofertility Consortium, read about the Oncofertility Online program. In addition, we would love to hear your feedback or any suggestions you may have on topics relevant to cancer and fertility for future Virtual Grand Rounds. Visit our Virtual Grand Rounds webpage to submit your ideas.

California Bill AB 912, Mandated Fertility Preservation, Moves On to the Senate

On Wednesday, May 29th, the California Assembly passed Bill AB 912. On July 10th, it will be addressed by the California Senate Health Committee. For those of you who are unfamiliar with California Bill AB 912, it is a bill that would require a health care service plan and a health insurer to provide, on a group and individual basis, coverage for medically necessary expenses for standard fertility preservation services when a necessary medical treatment may directly or indirectly cause iatrogenic infertility. The bill was first introduced in February of this year, and has made its way through the Assembly and will now move on to the Senate. We encourage you to support CA Bill AB 912 by contacting your Senate Health and Appropriations Committees and telling them to vote YES for CA Bill AB 912 this July. For more information about CA Bill AB 912, please read our  post about it HERE.

Registration is Now OPEN for the 2013 Oncofertility Conference, September 9 & 10

GlobeWe have exciting news to share – registration for the 7th annual Oncofertility Conference: Cancer and Fertility Around the Globe is now open! Please visit the conference webpage to view the agenda, speaker biographies,  submit an abstract for the poster session, and to REGISTER.  This year’s highlights will include; small group courses on oncofertility lab and clinical tools, insights from the International Society for Fertility Preservation, mitigating fertility loss in cancer patients, and a new fertility preservation decision tool for young patients.

The first day of the conference centers around a series of presentations from leaders in the field of oncofertility, including breakout sessions over lunch and an evening cocktail reception/poster exhibit. Our keynote speakers this year include Samuel Kim, MD, from the International Society for Fertility Preservation, and Nao Suzuki, PhD, from the St. Marianna University School of Medicine in Kanagawa, Japan. Throughout the day and evening, invited speakers from across the globe will present cutting-edge information to attendees that is not to be missed.

The second day of the conference, the Oncofertility Consortium will be hosting a set of popular courses for basic scientists and healthcare professionals to help improve their research and clinical skills. The first course offered, Clinic 101: Building a Fertility Preservation and National Physicians Cooperative (NPC) Program, is a one-day, small-group training course to give health care providers the tools necessary to develop their own fertility preservation program or strengthen their existing program. The training includes the following:

  • Overview of the Key Pieces in a Fertility Preservation Program
  • The Ins and Outs of Setting Up a Local Oncofertility Community
  • Timing, Turnaround, and Practical Considerations
  • Discussing Fertility Preservation with Patients
  • Pediatric Fertility Preservation
  • Engaging the nursing community
  • The Oncologist’s Perspective

The second course offered, Oncofertility 101: Training in Follicle Techniques, provides one-day, small-group training courses to provide researchers with the tools to study follicle growth in vitro. The training includes the following:

  • Laboratory Exercise Part I: Follicle Isolation & Manipulation
  • Laboratory Exercise Part II: Follicle Encapsulation in Alginate
  • The Evolution of Biomaterials in Follicle Culture
  • The Ins and Outs of Setting Up a Follicle Culture Laboratory
  • Laboratory Exercise Part III: Follicle Imaging & Quality Analysis

These courses run concurrently so participants may only register for one. They fill up quickly so be sure to register at your earliest convenience.

Don’t miss out on this great opportunity to meet and network with renowned Oncofertility specialists from across the globe! CNE credit will be available for healthcare professionals, and for those that cannot attend in person, there will be a LIVE broadcast of the first day of the conference (9th). REGISTER TODAY. We look forward to seeing you in September!

**This activity is being submitted to the Oncology Nursing Society for approval to award contact hours. ONS is accredited as an approver of continuing nursing education by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s COA.**


The Annual National Women’s Survivors Convention – August 22-24, 2013!

logoThere are nearly 7 million women survivors in the United States, 54.7% of all cancer survivors. These facts highlight the need to move survivorship education into the forefront of the conversation about cancer and thus, the Women Survivors Alliance (WSA) was born – created by women survivors, for women survivors. The WSA is an all-volunteer Nashville-based, non-profit organization founded in 2011, providing survivorship support to women who have moved beyond treatment. The WSA helps women transition into survivorship by helping them restore a sense of control, and by providing the tools necessary to take care of the whole person so that they can achieve true survivorship with a fulfilling, promising, and cancer-free life.

The WSA has undertaken a national call to action to relieve the burdens of survivorship issues on women, their families, and by extension, society as a whole. The alliance was created to establish a network where women affected by cancer can find their voice, improve their quality of life, embrace their new normal, and help others. Survivorship, and the recognition of the many challenges survivors face following treatment, is becoming an important issue in the world of cancer.

As many of our readers know, survivorship touches all aspects of a person’s life – from physical, financial, career and insurance related issues to emotional, self-esteem/self worth concerns, and family dynamics. To address these issues, the WSA hosts the annual National Women’s Survivors Convention (NWSC). The only national women survivors’ celebration of its kind, the NWSC works in partnership with cancer organizations from all over the country to bring the best information and programs available to women survivors and their co-survivors. Women from across the country and around the world will come together to celebrate their survivorship by connecting, convening, sharing, learning, and thriving.

This year, the NWSC will be held in Nashville, TN, at the Gaylord Opryland Resort, Thursday, August 22, through Sunday, August 24.  It is a three-day, one-of-a kind experience for women survivors of all types of cancer, offering a high energy, entertaining, and content-rich experience. This event is comprised of interactive educational workshops, spa makeovers, the latest in clinical research for women’s cancer treatments, and inspirational cancer survivor keynotes. Our very own, Dr. Teresa Woodruff, will be leading an empowerment session at the Convention entitled, “High Risk Cancer,” that is not to be missed!

The cost to attend this fun and informative event is $139. That includes the main stage presentations, panels, Empowerment Sessions, the Red Carpet Live! Pajama Party, the Survivor Chef Challenge, and “Heeling” for Survivors Fashion Show. The Saturday night Salute to Survivors All Star Concert being held at the Grand Ole Opry is an additional $36. For more information and to REGISTER for the NWSC, please click HERE.

Join Us for the 20th Annual Cancer Survivors’ Celebration & Walk on June 2nd!

2012 (19th Annual) Cancer Survivors' Celebration & WalkCancer survivors, their families and friends, and the Northwestern community that supports them
, will come together on National Cancer Survivors Day, June 2nd, to walk and celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Robert H. Lurie Cancer Center’s signature event, the Annual Cancer Survivors’ Celebration & Walk. The event brings people affected by cancer together in Grant Park to honor cancer survivors and celebrate the strides being made in treatment and research. Come out and join us for this memorable event in Chicago celebrating survivors with a picnic, kids’ corner, t-shirts, music, entertainment, the Dedication Wall, and more.

The Walk is about three miles, but registrants can walk any distance they’d like and return to Grant Park whenever they choose to. In fact, you don’t even have to walk, you can just come out and enjoy the picnic, entertainment, and help celebrate! In commemoration of its 20th year, the Annual Cancer Survivors’ Celebration & Walk has added an optional timed 5K Run along the lake to mark the occasion. The 5K Run is limited to 500 participants, so make sure you get over to registration and secure your spot! Use discount code NURUN and save $15 when you register for the 5K before May 29th!

Donations are not required to take part in this community awareness event honoring cancer survivors; however, contributions to support research and education at the Lurie Cancer Center are optional, and can be made here. Registration is $15 per person in advance and $25 on the day of the Walk, beginning at 7 a.m. There is no charge for children under 2 years old. Registration for the 5K Run is $50 per person, which includes the Walk Fee (see 5K Run page for details).

We hope you’ll join us in Grant Park on June 2nd as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the nation’s largest National Cancer Survivors Day celebration with more than 3,500 survivors, families, and friends. See you there!

Celebrating National Women’s Health Week

This week is National Women’s Health Week. In honor of this important health awareness week, the Women’s Health Research Institute recently hosted the third annual Celebrating National Women’s Health Week event at Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago, IL. Activities included keynote speaker, Holly Herrington, MS, RD, LDN, from the Center for Lifestyle Medicine, a poster session featuring current research in women’s health, and exhibitors from in and around Chicago promoting women’s health through advocacy, research, and/or education. Approximately 400 people attended this event, making this year the most successful turnout yet!

Anxious to take part in this fantastic event bringing awareness to gender specific health issues and organizations, we signed up to participate alongside two dozen other groups promoting women’s health. Exhibiting next to us was a local organization called SHINE, which provides infertility group support in Chicago for men and women experiencing fertility struggles. Together, we proved to be a popular stop for health care professionals, specifically nurses, eager to bring fertility preservation information back to their patients. Recognizing fertility as a critical component of patient care, they expressed their gratitude for the Consortium’s efforts to educate clinicians about the value of discussing reproductive health outcomes with newly diagnosed pediatric, adolescent, and young adult cancer patients, and their parents when appropriate.

While perusing the exhibit tables, attendees were also exposed to a poster session displaying the latest in women’s health research. Woodruff Lab members presented their research to captivated audiences eager to learn more about the future of women’s reproductive health. Another Woodruff Enterprise making its mark at the poster session was the Women’s Health Science Program (WHSP), providing science education programs to females from underserved communities. WHSP targets young women who are considering careers in science and medicine and prepares them with valuable knowledge and skills to successfully become the next generation of women science leaders.

At noon, keynote speaker, Holly Herrington, RD, LDN, a Registered Dietitian in the Center for Lifestyle Medicine at Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation, took the stage to discuss how women should be eating to maintain optimal health at every age. Holly’s presentation centered on helping attendees understand how nutritional needs for women evolve across their lifespan, and how they change based on different health and disease states. She provided information on nutrients, vitamins, and the evidence behind dietary recommendations, which can protect against or contribute to the development of chronic health issues, such as obesity, osteoporosis, and other diseases. The takeaway message from her presentation was to eat a healthy diet mainly comprised of superfoods in an effort to lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, improve mood and keep your weight in check. Sounds like good medicine to us!

To read more about Celebrating Women’s Health Week, please visit the Women’s Health Research Institute website.

A Day in the Life of the Woodruff Enterprise

by Megan Carlson, Guest Blogger for the Oncofertility Consortium

My name is Megan, and I will be your guest blogger for today.

I’m a journalism graduate student who had the great pleasure of shadowing Dr. Teresa Woodruff Tuesday as part of my health and science reporting practicum.

As soon as I arrived at 8 AM, Dr. Woodruff and I hit the ground running– greeting and checking in with the entire staff, from the program managers to the researchers already diligently at work in the lab.  This daily process is part of Dr. Woodruff’s efforts to maintain open communication with the entire lab.

We next traipsed over to a large conference room, where a group of 15 mostly-female scientists were already gathered with coffee and notepads ready for the weekly staff meeting, called the “R3 Data Club.”  Dr. Woodruff insists the entire team (who are located in several different locations) meet via web conference each week to discuss developments in the lab and present their research.  This is another explicit effort by Dr. Woodruff to ensure her team acts on the same page and immerses younger team members in the mission and work of the lab.

While some of the nitty-gritty details flew over my head (my knowledge of science could probably fill a thimble), I was impressed by the engagement of the staff as they listened to and questioned postdoctoral fellow, Pam Monahan, PhD’s, presentation on interactions among signaling pathways leading to potential disruptions in follicle development (itself, a possible contributing factor topolycystic ovary syndrome).

After the meeting, we rushed off to a government relations teleconference where a group, including Sharon Green, executive director of the Women’s Health Research Institute (WHRI) and Nadia Johnson, a program manager, planned the Chicago and Springfield Women’s Health Week celebrations.  Dr. Woodruff quickly switched her hat from hard-nosed scientist, asking pointed questions to her researchers about gene signaling pathways, to politically-savvy division chief, strategizing about how to best promote gender-specific scientific research to legislators, scientists and other interest groups.

I spent the remainder of the day shadowing Dr. Woodruff as she discussed efforts to increase enrollment in the Illinois Women’s Health Registry–an initiative that seeks to overcome the lack of sex-specific scientific research by connecting female research participants and researchers— and then following program managers and researchers who introduced me to the work of the Oncofertility Consortium.

The day was an educational whirlwind.  I absorbed a flood of scientific information about infertility, fertility preservation, and the reproductive system (augmented by time I spent Monday in the reproductive fertility clinic of Dr. Mary Ellen Pavone, who works closely with Dr. Woodruff).  I also witnessed the behind-the-scenes political work, research, and coordination that function to produce the newest innovations in fertility treatment and women’s health.  It was fascinating to see all the cogs in the machine interact together to create these beneficial and progressive outcomes.

OMG2013 Cancer Summit Follow-Up: Talking Fertility

Many of you may already know about the widely popular organization, Stupid Cancer, but for those of you who are new to our blog, Stupid Cancer is the nation’s largest support community for young adult survivors of cancer. They support a global network of survivors, caregivers, providers and advocates to ensure that no young adult is unaware of the age-appropriate resources available to them. Stupid Cancer empowers young adults affected by cancer through innovative and award-winning programs and services, including Stupid Cancer Happy Hours, the Stupid Cancer Show, and the annual OMG! Cancer Summit for Young Adults.

The annual OMG! Cancer Summit for Young Adults is the premier oncology conference and social networking event for the young adult cancer movement. A pivotal healthcare event, OMG! is one of the largest gatherings of young adult patients, survivors, caregivers, professionals and advocates in the world. The event inspires thousands to get organized, build community and unite as one to drive change. In April, Stupid Cancer hosted its sixth OMG! Cancer Summit in Las Vegas, NV, and attracted over 600 attendees. As one would expect, Stupid Cancer makes the weekend-long event not only informative but also FUN, with events such as an ice cream social, and Stupid Cancer pub trivia.

Over the last few years, members of the Oncofertility Consortium have attended OMG! to help young survivors understand their fertility options and provide resources and pertinent information to young adults whose fertility may have been affected by their cancer treatment. This year, Consortium member, Laxmi Kondapalli, MD, MSCE, moderated two breakout sessions entitled, “Fertility: Rights & Options With, Through, And Beyond Care.” Dr. Kondapalli served as the clinical expert and reproductive health specialist alongside Alice Crisci, advocate and Founder of Fertile Action, and Jennifer Rockman, ovarian cancer survivor.

The framework of their session revolved around all the different routes to parenthood available to young cancer survivors, including banking eggs, embryos, ovarian tissue, and semen; using a gestational carrier; and pursuing adoption. Dr. Kondapalli stated that the overwhelming theme that evolved from the sessions was the lack of information presented to newly diagnosed cancer patients regarding the potential impact on their fertility. Attendees were eager to learn about the different tests available to gauge fertility, such as ovarian reserve testing for women and semen analysis for men. They also wanted to learn more about their fertility options following cancer treatment and, specifically, how their treatment may have impacted their fertility. Participants left armed with information and resources, and even Dr. Kondapalli’s personal email address, should they need her clinical expertise at any point in their fertility journey.

To learn more about your fertility options, visit, or contact us at 1.866.708.FERT (3378).

Page 10 of 57« First...89101112...203040...Last »
© Oncofertility Consortium Blog