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Childhood cancer treatment can alter Leydig cell function

Memphis, Tennessee, September 26, 2019

Researcher in white lab coat reading a publication inside an office, sitting at a desk.

Wassim Chemaitilly, MD, director of Endocrinology, has published a report on Leydig cell function in male survivors of childhood cancer, using data collected from the St. Jude Lifetime Cohort Study.

Leydig cells produce testosterone in men. Treatment for childhood cancer can affect these cells.

Scientists studied cancer survivors in the St. Jude Lifetime Cohort (SJLIFE) study. The long-term follow-up data included hormone levels that reflect Leydig cell function.

Leydig cell failure was linked with treatments that affect the testes. These treatments include testicular radiotherapy and alkylating agents. Leydig cell failure was also linked with obesity, diabetes, erectile dysfunction, muscle weakness and deaths from other causes.

Only 40% of survivors with Leydig cell failure were treated with testosterone. More research is needed to see if testosterone replacement could help improve their health.

“Treatment for childhood cancer can have effects long into adulthood,” said Wassim Chemaitilly, MD, director of Endocrinology. “Long-term follow-up data on Leydig cell function in survivors had been scarce prior to this study.”

A report on this work appeared in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

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