Although other studies have shown that cancer treatments can increase a patient’s likelihood of developing the disease later in life, this is one of the first known studies to show the sensitization can be passed on to the third generation of unexposed offspring.
For the study, the researchers exposed a group of young male mice for three days to ifosfamide, simulating the treatment that an adolescent cancer patient might receive. These mice were then crossed with female mice that were not exposed to the drug. As a result, the cubs were re-crossed with another flock of unexposed mice.
First-generation offspring have been exposed to chemotherapy drugs since their father’s sperm was exposed, but the researchers found higher rates of the disease not only in the first generation but also in the third generation. two, people who are not directly exposed to the drug.
Although there are some generational and gender differences, associated problems include a higher incidence of kidney and testicular disease as well as delayed puberty and less abnormal anxiety, suggesting a potential risk assessment. lower risk.
Chemotherapy may increase disease risk for two generations
The researchers also analyzed the mouse epigenetic genome, which is a molecular process that is independent of DNA sequence, but affects gene expression, including turning genes on or off. Previous research has shown that exposure to toxins, especially during development, can induce epigenetic changes that can be transmitted through sperm and eggs.
The results of the researchers’ analysis revealed epigenetic changes over two generations associated with chemotherapy exposure in mice that were initially exposed. The fact that these changes could be seen in progeny, who were not directly exposed to chemotherapy drugs, indicates that the negative effects were passed down through epigenetic inheritance.
The findings suggest that if a patient receives chemotherapy, and then has children, their grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren, may be more likely to develop the disease from their ancestors’ chemotherapy exposure.
The researchers stress that these findings should not deter cancer patients from undergoing chemotherapy, as it can be a very effective treatment.
Chemotherapy drugs kill cancer cells and prevent them from multiplying, but have many side effects because they affect the entire body, including the reproductive system.
Given the implications of this study, the researchers recommend that cancer patients planning to have children in the future take precautions, such as using cryopreservation to freeze sperm or eggs before chemotherapy.
Better knowledge of the epigenetic changes of chemotherapy could also help inform patients of the potential for certain diseases, enabling earlier prevention and treatment strategies.