FRIDAY, May 30, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Adding a drug called goserelin to chemotherapy reduces the risk of early menopause in breast cancer patients and seems to improve survival, according to a new study.
Early menopause is one of the most upsetting side effects of chemotherapy among young breast cancer patients, the researchers noted.
The investigators found that adding goserelin to chemotherapy significantly reduced the risk of early menopause in breast cancer patients, and increased the chances that survivors could get pregnant and have a healthy baby later.
Goserelin (Zoladex) temporarily puts the ovaries "at rest" during chemotherapy, according to study senior author Dr. Kathy Albain, of Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ill.
"We found that, in addition to reducing the risk of early menopause, and all of the symptoms that go along with menopause, goserelin was very safe and may even improve survival," she said in a Loyola news release. "I think these findings are going to change our clinical practice."
The study included 257 premenopausal women younger than 50 with early stage estrogen- or progesterone-receptor-negative breast cancers. The patients were randomly assigned to receive either standard chemotherapy or chemotherapy plus goserelin.
After two years, 45 percent of women in the chemotherapy-only group showed signs of early menopause, compared with just 20 percent of those in the chemo plus goserelin group. In addition, the authors noted, the pregnancy rate was 11 percent in the chemotherapy-only group and 21 percent in the goserelin group.
After four years, 89 percent of the women in the chemo plus goserelin group showed no signs or symptoms of cancer, compared with 78 percent of those in the chemotherapy-only group. Survival rates at four years were 92 percent in the goserelin group and 82 percent in the chemotherapy-only group, according to the report.
"Premenopausal women beginning chemotherapy for early breast cancer should consider this new option to prevent premature ovarian failure," the study authors concluded.
The findings are scheduled for presentation Saturday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), held in Chicago. Research presented at meetings is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
Goserelin is an injection drug that is similar to a natural hormone made by the body. It is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treatment of prostate cancer, certain benign gynecological conditions and certain breast cancers.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about breast cancer.