Subclinical depletion of primordial follicular reserve in mice treated with cyclophosphamide: clinical importance and proposed accurate investigative tool

D Meirow, H Lewis, D Nugent, M Epstein
Human Reproduction 1999, 14 (7): 1903-7
Studies have shown that ovarian failure is a common side-effect of chemotherapy treatment; however, continuation of regular menses post-treatment does not necessarily imply that the ovaries have escaped damage. This animal study measures directly the primordial follicle (PMF) loss following exposure to chemotherapy and evaluates reproductive outcome following significant destruction of the PMF population. Inbred Balb/c mice aged 5-6 weeks were administered different doses of an alkylating agent, cyclophosphamide, and the total number of PMF remaining in both ovaries was counted. Results show that cyclophosphamide causes PMF destruction in proportion to increasing dose (P = 0.0001). Reproductive performance was assessed after exposure to 75 mg/kg cyclophosphamide, a dose which destroys approximately 50% of PMF reserve, by evaluation of ovulation, mating and pregnancy rates. Reproductive potential of treated mice was not affected compared with controls despite the significant loss of PMF. Our results indicate that reproductive performance is not an accurate parameter for assessing ovarian injury. Rather, histological counting of PMF number more directly reflects the damage caused by chemotherapy to the ovary. This method can be used as a sensitive, inexpensive tool to gauge the damage to fertility caused by new chemotherapy agents or protocols.

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