Do BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutation carriers have a reduced ovarian reserve? Protocol for a prospective observational study

Amy Louise Winship, Chris Willson, Karl R. Hansen, Karla J. Hutt, Martha Hickey

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5 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction BRCA1/2 gene mutations increase risk of breast and/or ovarian cancer and may have implications for reproductive health. Indirect biomarkers of the ovarian primordial follicle pool (anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH)) and one small study in female cadavers suggest that ovarian reserve may be reduced in BRCA mutation carriers, but findings are conflicting and association between circulating AMH and primordial follicle number is not established. The aim of this study is to measure primordial follicle density in premenopausal ovarian tissue samples from women with BRCA1/2 gene mutations versus age-matched comparison group. Methods and analysis Prospective observational study measuring associations between BRCA gene mutation status, premenopausal ovarian primordial follicle density and serum AMH concentrations versus age-matched premenopausal women from the general population. Primordial follicle density will be measured in cortical sections from ovarian tissue collected at the time of risk-reducing bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (RRBSO) in 88 BRCA1 gene mutation carriers, 65 BRCA2 gene mutation carriers and 157 non-mutation carriers. Primordial follicle density will be determined by counting follicles in a known volume of ovarian cortical tissue using light microscopy. Follicles will be identified by immunohistochemical staining for oocyte marker mouse vasa homologue. To inform the mechanisms underlying reduced ovarian reserve, the proportion of follicles containing oocytes with DNA damage will be determined by immunohistochemical staining for phosphorylated histone H2AX and terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end labelling assay to identify apoptotic cells. Follicle density will be correlated with circulating AMH concentrations quantified in the same cohort, using an electrochemiluminescence immunoassay on an automated platform. Ethics and dissemination Ethics approval has been granted by Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre to access biobanks, including; The Kathleen Cuningham Foundation Consortium for Research into Familial Breast Cancer (kConFab-HREC#97_27) and the What Happens after Menopause? (HREC12PMCC24-12/90) and Melbourne IVF.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere033810
Number of pages7
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 25 Nov 2019


  • BRCA
  • DNA repair
  • fertility
  • follicle
  • germline mutation
  • oocyte

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