Drug May Prevent Infertility in Males Undergoing Cancer Treatment

G-CSF promotes regeneration of sperm cells in cancer patients.

A drug used to prevent infection in patients with cancer may also prevent male infertility, according to a study published in Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology.

The loss of fertility is a common problem among male cancer patients, because treatments often halt sperm production.

While looking for ways to restart sperm production, investigators discovered a link between the drug granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) and the absence of typical damage to reproductive ability.

G-CSF is a biologic response modifier that stimulates granulocyte production in patients undergoing chemotherapy. It is designed to prevent infection and neutropenic fevers typically caused by cancer treatment.

“We are using G-CSF to prevent infections in our research experiments,” said lead investigator Brian Hermann. “It turned out that the drug also had the unexpected impact of guarding against male infertility.”

In a study using male mice treated with G-CSF, the investigators found that the drug unexpectedly began regenerating sperm production by creating new sperm cells to replace the dead cells.

“Granulocyte colony-stimulating factor appears to promote proliferation of undifferentiated spermatogonia, which leads to a modest enhancement of spermatogenic regeneration from surviving spermatogonia after high-dose alkylating chemotherapy,” the authors wrote. “G-CSF treatment alone also enhances spermatogenic parameters, suggesting a role in steady-state spermatogenesis.”

Future steps would include determining whether G-CSF has a correlation with improved fertility among cancer patients. But until then, the investigators plan to focus on further understanding the stems cells that make male reproduction possible. This way, they can identify a more effective solution for male infertility, according to the study.

“Male infertility is an intuitive disease and we need creative solutions,” Hermann concluded. “But we need to understand how things work before we can fix them.”