London – According to a study, published in the journal Human Reproduction, women who have suffered from cancer may preserve their fertility by undergoing an ovary transplant procedure. About one third of women who had ovarian tissue removed was able to get pregnant.
A team of researchers, including Dr. Annette Jensen, Ph.D. student in the Laboratory of Reproductive Biology at the Rigshospitalet in Denmark, and colleagues from Odense University Hospital and Aarhus University Hospital, conducted a review of Danish women who had undergone transplants, in order to determine negative effects.
However, they found encouraging results for women who had suffered from cancer and want to have children, a goal highly difficult to achieve, since cancer treatment can harm the ovaries.
“Many girls and young women who have been diagnosed with a disease such as cancer now have a realistic hope of recovery and living a normal life, but the treatment for their disease can cause infertility by damaging the functioning of their ovaries”, Jensen said in a press release.
The procedure is very simple. Scientists typically remove one ovary and cut it into strips before freezing them. Then, the ovary can be transplanted in pieces later, after the women have recovered from cancer.
“Once we transplant the ovarian tissue, it takes about four to five months for the ovary to get restarted,” said Dr. Claus Yding Andersen, the study’s senior author, in a press statement.
Researchers followed 41 Danish women who underwent the procedure from 2003 to 2014. Among the 32 who wanted to have children, 10 got pregnant and gave birth to at least one child. These results showed a pregnancy success rate of about 30 percent. Fourteen children were born in total. This increased the amount up to 36 babies that have been born to women who had ovary transplants throughout the world.
In the study, three women later had cancer relapse (7%), but Anderser said it did not seem to be linked with the transplants, since the proportion among women who had undergone the procedure was the same as the proportion among women who did not.
According to researchers, this is a promising technique that offers the chance of preserving someone’s fertility in the future. “This technique still needs to be further validated, but the results are reassuring,” Dr. Yacoub Khalaf, director of the Assisted Conception Unit at Guy’s Hospital in London, who is also working to refine the procedure, said in a press release. “It offers hope to people who have no other alternative.” he added.
Nonetheless, longer follow up of the women who were examined will give more data about the probabilities of cancer relapse. Dr. Jane Stewart of the British Fertility Society said the technique wouldn’t be suitable for everyone and that doctors need to be careful about selecting which patients to treat.
“I think patients would definitely want (the option of transplanted ovarian tissue) and there is a lot of future potential, but this isn’t ready to be rolled out tomorrow,” she said, as stated in the Huffington Post.
Denmark is among the only countries who offers the treatment free to all women who qualify. In Britain, Germany and Belgium the technique is available at some clinics, but it is not part of routine cancer care.
Source: Human Reproduction