Due to improved treatment, there is an increasing focus on the reproductive potential of survivors of childhood cancer. Cytotoxic chemotherapy accelerates the decline in the number of primordial follicles within the mammalian ovary at all ages, but effects on the developmental potential of remaining oocytes following prepubertal cancer treatment are unclear.
To investigate whether cyclophosphamide (CY) exposure in the prepubertal period in female mice influences ovarian function and the functional competence of oocytes in adulthood.
This study used Swiss albino mice as the experimental model. Female mice were treated with 200 mg/kg CY on either postnatal day 14 (CY14), 21 (CY21) or 28 (CY28) i.e at a prepubertal and 2 young postpubertal ages. At 14 weeks of life, ovarian function, functional competence of oocytes, and embryo quality were assessed.
The number of primordial follicles decreased significantly in CY14 and CY21 groups compared to control (p < 0.01). The number of oocytes from superovulated was 8.5 ± 1.4, 24.1 ± 2.9 and 26.8 ± 2.1 in CY14, CY21 and CY28 respectively which was significantly lower than control (50.2 ± 3.2; p < 0.001). In vitro culture of CY14 embryos demonstrated only 55.4% blastocyst formation (p < 0.0001) and reduced ability of inner cell mass (ICM) to proliferate in vitro (p < 0.05) at 120 and 216 h post insemination respectively. On the other hand, ICM proliferation was unaltered in 2 young postpubertal ages.
Our results indicate long-term effects on the developmental competence of oocytes exposed to CY in early but not adult life. These data provide a mechanism whereby long-term fertility can be impaired after chemotherapy exposure, despite the continuing presence of follicles within the ovary, and support the need for fertility preservation in prepubertal girls before alkylating agent exposure.