Cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy often kill sperm stem cells and render male cancer patients infertile. Researchers from Texas in the United States have now used animal models to show encouraging evidence of medication that could prevent this debilitating side effect.

Led by, Brian Hermann from the biology department of the University of Texas at San Antonio, the study examined how sperm production can be restarted in men who have become infertile because of cancer treatments they received as children. Men and boys who have undergone puberty can ensure future fertility by cyrobanking, or freezing, their sperm before starting chemotherapy and radiation. Boys who have not yet attained puberty do not have this option, the study said.

The study, which has been published in the journal Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, tests the effects of a drug, which that has been used to prevent infections in recovering cancer patients, on mice. The drug called granulocyte colony-stimulating factor stimulates bone marrow to produce neutrophils, which are white blood cells that are needed to fight infections. These cells are often lost after chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

The drug had an unexpected additional effect of preventing male infertility and creating new sperm stem cells to replace the dead ones, the animal model shows. The team now wants to study whether using granulocyte colony-stimulating factor, which is already in wide use by cancer patients, has correlation with restored fertility among humans.