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WSU study hints at possible long-term ripples from common chemotherapy drug

AbbyLadyBug, via Flickr Creative Commons

A new Washington State University-led study suggests that a common chemotherapy drug could cause health issues for the children and even grandchildren of patients who receive it.

The study was prompted by previous research on the effects of pesticides and how they affected generations of animals that were descendants of the original animals exposed to the chemicals.

WSU biologist Michael Skinner said the new study shows male rats who received a popular drug called ifosfamide during adolescence produced offspring that had increased susceptibility to disease.

"We had some kidney disease, there's usually reproductive effects in the testes and ovary...and in this particular one we had some behavior effects [as well]. Instead of increasing stress and anxiety, it actually decreased anxiety and the individuals are actually much higher risk takers," Skinner said.

Despite the indicated risk, Skinner does not recommend against chemo use. He says patients should be advised to take precautions if they plan to have children later in life.

“If you are in a younger age, like a teenager or 20, 30 or even 40 year old individual and you knew you were going to try to have children, essentially if you could get your sperm or your eggs and cryo-preserve it before the chemo," Skinner said. "And then use those in an in-vitro fertilization situation later then would alleviate the problem of passing on the chemo effects to your sperm and egg.”

Skinner said he is involved in a human study now underway with Seattle Children's Research Institute, involving former adolescent cancer patients. Scientists hope to learn more about the effects of chemo exposure on fertility and the connection with disease later in life.

Steve was part of the Spokane Public Radio family for many years before he came on air in 1999. His wife, Laurie, produced Radio Ethiopia in the late 1980s through the '90s, and Steve used to “lurk in the shadowy world” of Weekend SPR. Steve has done various on air shifts at the station, including nearly 15 years as the local Morning Edition host. Currently, he is the voice of local weather and news during All Things Considerd, writing, editing, producing and/or delivering newscasts and features for both KPBX and KSFC. Aside from SPR, Steve ,who lives in the country, enjoys gardening, chickens, playing and listening to music, astronomy, photography, sports cars and camping.