A common chemotherapy drug could carry a toxic legacy for the children and grandchildren of cancer survivors, according to new research.
The study, conducted by Washington State University, found that male mice given the drug ifosfamide had children and grandchildren with a higher incidence of the disease. While other research has shown that cancer therapies can increase patients’ chances of developing the disease later in life, this is one of the first known studies showing that susceptibility can be passed on to a third generation of unexposed offspring .
“The findings suggest that if a patient receives chemotherapy and then has children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren may have a greater susceptibility to disease due to their ancestors’ exposure to chemotherapy,” said Michael Skinner, a WSU biologist. and author of the study. Previous research has shown that exposure to toxic substances, particularly during development , can create epigenetic changes that can be passed on through sperm and ova. Associated problems included an increased incidence of kidney and testicular disease, as well as a delayed onset of puberty.
Skinner stressed that the findings shouldn’t dissuade cancer patients from taking chemotherapy, as it can be a very effective treatment. The reason for this hereditary effect would be attributable to the action of chemotherapy drugs, which kill cancer cells and prevent them from multiplying, but have many side effects determined by the impact they have on the entire body, including the reproductive system .
Given the implications of this study, the researchers recommend that cancer patients planning to have children later take precautions, such as using cryopreservation to freeze sperm or eggs before undergoing chemotherapy.
- Examination of generational impacts of adolescent chemotherapy: Ifosfamide and potential for epigenetic transgenerational inheritance. (sciencedirect. com)