Circulating Tumor DNA to Interrogate the Safety of Letrozole-Associated Controlled Ovarian Stimulation for Fertility Preservation in Breast Cancer Patients

Françoise Rothé, Matteo Lambertini, Oranite Goldrat, Marion Maetens, Yacine Bareche, Jeremy Blanc, Ghizlane Rouas, Denis Larsimont, Christos Sotiriou, Michail Ignatiadis, Isabelle Demeestere

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Current fertility preservation strategies for young breast cancer patients planning a future motherhood include the association of controlled ovarian stimulation with the aromatase inhibitor letrozole (let-COS) to harvest mature oocytes while maintaining low estradiol levels. Despite this is a widely adopted protocol, the safety of let-COS on breast cancer outcomes has been poorly investigated and its use remains off-label. We assessed the safety of let-COS in breast cancer patients using circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) as a surrogate biomarker of disease recurrence. Methods: BROVALE is an interventional non-randomized prospective study designed to evaluate the efficacy and safety of let-COS for fertility preservation in early breast cancer patients before starting (neo)adjuvant chemotherapy. Letrozole was administered throughout the COS cycle, until ovulation triggering. Safety was a secondary endpoint. Data on oncological outcomes were collected during the follow-up as well as plasma and whole blood for evaluation of ctDNA levels at the time of enrollment (i.e. before starting let-COS) and oocyte retrieval (i.e. 48 hours after the last administration of letrozole). Targeted gene sequencing on the primary tumor samples was performed to identify specific mutations used for ctDNA analysis by digital PCR. DNA extracted from whole blood samples was used to discriminate between somatic and germline mutations. Results: From April 2014 to May 2017, 29 young early breast cancer patients enrolled in the BROVALE study who had available tissue samples participated to the ctDNA substudy. Among them, 15 had at least one validated somatic mutation. ctDNA was undetectable neither before nor after let-COS in 9 of them. Six patients had detectable ctDNA in the plasma samples collected before Let-COS. No change in ctDNA level after let-COS was observed in 3 patients and the level decreased (fold-change ≤ 0.5) in two women. One patient experienced an increased (fold-change ≥ 2) in ctDNA level but without disease relapse 34 months after diagnosis. Conclusions: No increase in ctDNA level was observed in 93% (14/15) of the patients receiving let-COS supporting its use as a safe strategy for young women with early breast cancer interested in fertility preservation before chemotherapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)686625
JournalFrontiers in Oncology
Publication statusPublished - Aug 3 2021


  • breast cancer
  • circulating tumor DNA
  • fertility preservation
  • letrozole
  • ovarian stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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