Lab Canada

$2.4M in funding to help scientists examine effects of cancer drugs on male reproduction

Montreal,QC – March 4, 2003 – Aided by a $2.4 million, five-year grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, researchers from McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine, the McGill University Health Centre, the Sir B Mortimer Jewish General Hospital, in conjunction with researchers from the University of Calgary, the University of Ottawa and the Universit de Montral, will tackle the effects of cancer treatment on male reproduction.

A very real concern exists about the potential impact of exposure to drugs or environmental chemicals on reproduction in general and germ cells in particular. It is believed that drug combinations used to treat testicular cancer and lymphomas have significant detrimental effects on the quantity and quality of male germ cells.

Furthermore, damage to these germ cells may lead to fetal death and birth defects in the offspring or to an increased risk of transmitting genomic damage to future generations.

The research will be conducted in three phases. Project 1 will evaluate the effects of anticancer drug treatments on men of reproductive age in their fertility and the genetic integrity of their germs cells. Project 2 will determine what risk information is provided to these men and if the provision of this information in a timely and supportive manner will reduce their psychosocial stress. In Project 3, animal models will be used to determine how cancer treatments damage male germ cells, somatic cells or stem cells in the testis. The goal of the third phase will be to establish endpoints that could be used as markers and will be useful in assessing human germ cell quality.

This important study, led by main investigator Dr Bernard Robaire, professor of Pharmacology and Therapeutics and of Obstetrics and Gynecology at McGill University and involving 14 researchers from a variety of fields including pharmacology, urology, psychology, oncology, genetics, pediatrics, teratology, and epidemiology, is part of a strategic initiative of the CIHR’s Institute of Human Development and Child and Youth Health aimed at improving sperm, egg and embryos to better treat infertility. The McGill Project is one of the three funded across Canada.

“The information generated from these projects will allow the establishment of recommendations to modify the current clinical guidelines in managing cancer patients with respect to the needs and timing of gamete cryopreservation,” explains Dr Robaire. “Furthermore, data from these studies will allow improve the quality of genetic and fertility counseling for couples. Finally, these projects will provide a unique framework for the training of future generations of researchers in the multi-disciplinary approach crucial to this field."

“McGill’s Faculty of Medicine has a rich history of almost 200 years of experience and a worldwide reputation for accomplishments in research,” says Dr Abraham Fuks, dean of the McGill University Faculty of Medicine. "The study of reproductive health is of paramount importance to us and this is an important step in this area of research.