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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Refunded Research Center at Yale Makes Discovery that Could Help Infertile Couples

A research center at the Yale School of Public Health has been refunded with a $16.5 million grant to continue its support for a clinical research network whose discoveries could help millions of couples struggling with infertility.

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[Photo: Dr. Heping Zhang]

The refunded center, the Data Coordinating Center, is part of the Reproductive Medicine Network (RMN), which also includes six other universities. Scientists from the network recently found that the drug letrozole is more effective than clomiphene citrate, the first line infertility drug for women with polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS.

Dr. Heping Zhang, principal investigator of the Data Coordinating Center at the Yale Collaborative Center for Statistics in Science, or C2S2, is the senior author of the study published this month in The New England Journal of Medicine. The grant is from The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development.

“This study will change how doctors treat their infertile patients with PCOS,” said Dr. Zhang, the Susan Dwight Bliss Professor of Biostatistics at Yale School of Public Health and professor at the Yale Child Study Center and the Department of Statistics. “The study is a great success for multidisciplinary collaboration and teamwork.”

Dr. Zhang and his colleagues also concluded that the two drugs have similar safety profiles, and that the number of birth defects are comparable between the two treatments. Women taking letrozole, however, were more likely to experience dizziness and fatigue, whereas women taking clomiphene citrate experienced more hot flashes.

The finding has the potential to affect infertility treatment in the United States and beyond, Dr. Zhang said. Letrozole has been used to treat infertility since 2001. This is the first clinical trial that was powerful enough to evaluate letrozole against another widely used medication for infertile women with PCOS. Letrozole is also used to treat several other medical conditions, including local or metastatic breast cancer, endometriosis, and gynecomastia.

“I cannot emphasize enough how important a nimble data coordinator center is in accomplishing timely clinical trial recruitment and presentation of findings,” said Dr. Nanette Santoro, chair of the RMN steering committee. “The Yale Data Coordinating Center, under Dr. Zhang’s leadership, has been an outstanding partner for the clinical sites and has helped the Network have its most productive funding cycle by far over the past five years.”

Dr. Richard Legro, the lead author of the article, said that Dr. Zhang and his team “bring a remarkable attention to detail and a rapid response to problems at all phases of a clinical trial from planning to start up to recruitment to close out and to publication of results.”