Hormonal therapy could preserve fertility in women with cancer

At the age of 28, Christy Wolford discovered that she had breast cancer while breastfeeding her first child. Wolford got pregnant even after cancer treatments put her at high risk of sterility. (Photo: Courtesy Christy Wolford)

At the age of 28, Christy Wolford discovered that she had breast cancer while breastfeeding her first child. Wolford got pregnant even after cancer treatments put her at high risk of sterility. (Photo: Courtesy Christy Wolford)

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — A Fort Collins  woman is at the front of a medical breakthrough in fertility and it symbolizes hope for millions of women who often have their dreams of motherhood crushed by cancer.

Christy Wolford always wanted a big family, but her dreams were threatened in 2005 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer just after the birth of her first child.

At age 28,  Christy was in for a fight. She would need chemo therapy that was certain to leave her unable to have children.

“It is one thing to have somebody tell you you have cancer,  but it’s something else for them to tell you ‘oh by the way the treatment to make you live will kill your chances to have any more children,’” Wolford said.

Christy learned of an opportunity to participate in a clinical trial, using the drug Zoladex,  which is the brand name for Goserelin, to shut down her ovaries and protect her eggs from the harsh effects of the chemo.

She said she was determined to investigate every chance to spare her fertility, but knew she was stepping in uncharted territory.

“You’re fearful of adding a drug that they’ve never combined with chemo,” she said. “You don’t know what the results are going to be.”

But the result of her participation in the trial put her fears at rest.  It was a success.

“I was ecstatic,” Wolford said. “I’m not an emotional person but I was literally jumping up and down.”

Now, this brave cancer survivor has the big family she always wanted.

And she hoped her decision to face her fears and the outcome of the clinical trial will inspire other women to stay strong.

“I want to stand on top of the tallest building in the world  and scream it as loud as I can,” she said. “So many women and so many families don’t get that opportunity so we feel more than blessed.”

The findings of the study were presented to the American Society for Clinical Oncology by Dr. Halle Moore of the Cleveland Clinic.

While 11 percent of the  women in the study who did not get Zoladex  got pregnant, 21 percent of those who did get the drug were able to conceive.

Researchers reported that, so far, thirty babies have been born and eight women are still pregnant.

Medical experts said another option for women who must undergo chemotherapy is invitro fertilization (IVF).

In this process, a woman’s eggs are removed before their chemo treatment, fertilized and then frozen for use after the treatment is complete.

The findings of the new clinical trial mean that a much easier option could now help millions of women.