STUDY QUESTION: Does adjuvant letrozole in ovarian stimulation for IVF decrease the uterine peristalsis frequency (UPF) prior to fresh embryo transfer (ET)?
SUMMARY ANSWER: Adjuvant letrozole in ovarian stimulation for IVF does not reduce the UPF significantly prior to fresh ET.
WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: Throughout the cycle, uterine peristalsis aids spermatozoa transport to the fallopian tube and may affect implantation. At fresh ET, UPF is negatively correlated with implantation and clinical pregnancy rates and is believed to be modulated by oestradiol and progesterone. High levels of oestradiol, from multiple follicular development, in ovarian stimulation have been reported to increase UPF, whereas progesterone is considered to be an utero-relaxant. The influence of androgens is unclear. Co-treatment with letrozole during gonadotropin ovarian stimulation limits the supra-physiological oestradiol rise and may therefore reduce UPF prior to fresh ET.
STUDY DESIGN SIZE DURATION: This study was carried out on subjects participating in a single-centre double-blinded randomized controlled trial of the impact of letrozole on follicle development and endocrine profiles, and investigated the impact of adjuvant letrozole in ovarian stimulation for IVF on UPF prior to fresh ET and the correlations of UPF with endocrine markers. Between 2016 and 2017, 39 women expected to be normal responders were randomized to co-treatment with letrozole or placebo. Of these, 33 women completed this element of the study. The study was carried out according to the Helsinki Declaration and the ICH-Good-Clinical-Practice.
PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS SETTING METHODS: Eligible women were randomized 1:1 to adjuvant treatment with letrozole 5 mg/day or placebo in an antagonist protocol using a fixed dose of recombinant (r) FSH 150 IU/day. Final maturation was triggered with hCG 6500 IU and luteal support with vaginal progesterone was administered from the day following oocyte aspiration. Less than 1 h prior to fresh ET, 6-min duration transvaginal ultrasound recordings of the uterus in sagittal section were performed and blood samples were drawn.
MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: A total of 33 women completed the study (letrozole n = 17; placebo n = 16). Age, BMI and ovarian reserve markers were similar between the groups. On the day of ET, serum oestradiol levels were significantly suppressed in the letrozole group to a mean of 867 ± 827 pmol/l compared to 3110 ± 1528 pmol/l in the placebo group (P < 0.001). Mean UPF prior to fresh ET did not differ between the intervention and placebo group (3.3 ± 0.36 versus 3.5 ± 0.51 per minute respectively, P = 0.108). UPF was assessed and agreed by two observers who were blinded to adjuvant treatment. Two patients were excluded due to poor quality of the ultrasound recordings. Supra-physiological serum oestradiol in the placebo group were negatively correlated with UPF (P = 0.014; R = -0.62), but the more physiological serum oestradiol levels in the letrozole group showed no correlation with UPF (P = 0.567; R = 0.15). Serum progesterone levels were similar in both groups and did not show any significant correlation with UPF. Testosterone levels were significantly higher in the letrozole group (P = 0.005) and showed a non-significant trend that negatively correlated with UPF in the placebo group (P-value = 0.071, R = -0.48).
LIMITATIONS REASONS FOR CAUTION: Limitations of the study included the limited sample size and the lack of a power calculation specifically determined for this endpoint.
WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: The supra-physiological levels of oestradiol generated during ovarian stimulation were significantly suppressed in the intervention group. However, UPF prior to fresh ET was similar in both groups. Modulating the luteal phase sex steroids with adjuvant letrozole had little measured impact on UPF. Any beneficial effect of adjuvant letrozole during ovarian stimulation is unlikely to be due to significant modulation of UPF.
STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTERESTS: M.D.H.'s salary was funded by an unrestricted research grant from Gedeon Richter. The expenses of the study were funded by a scientific collaboration: ReproUnion, co-financed by the European Union, Interreg Öresund-Kattegat-Skagerrak and Ferring Pharmaceuticals. The assays for the analyses were funded by Roche Diagnostics and an unrestricted research grant from Merck Life Science AS, Denmark. The authors have no competing interests to declare regarding this study.
TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: Clinicaltrials.gov: NCT02939898, EudraCT no.: 2015-005683-41.