A cancer patient in Edinburgh has become the first woman in the UK to have a child following a transplant of her frozen ovarian tissue. The birth adds to the growing number of children born following ovarian tissue transplants worldwide.
The mother, who wishes to remain anonymous, had a section of her ovary removed and frozen 11 years ago after being diagnosed with a rare form of kidney cancer. She has now given birth to a healthy baby boy at the age of 33.
She said: 'When I had the initial procedure to remove my ovarian tissue, it was very new and experimental. That the re-implanted tissue took so quickly came as a really wonderful surprise.'
'I'm incredibly appreciative of my oncologist's foresight in sending me for the consultation with the fertility team.'
Over 40 children have been born to women who have undergone ovarian tissue transplants worldwide. In many cases – including this one – the tissue was taken from adults, although last year a child was born to a woman in Belgium with transplanted ovarian tissue stored aged 13, after the onset of puberty (see BioNews 806).
There has been some doubt whether the procedure would work with tissue taken from pre-pubescent children, whose reproductive organs have not fully matured. However, earlier this year a woman received a transplant of ovarian tissue frozen since she was eight years old, and was able to produce eggs (see BioNews 844).
Recently, doctors in Oxford announced news of ovarian tissue being obtained and stored from a two-year-old cancer patient, from which immature eggs were also obtained and matured, before being frozen (see BioNews 859). The patient was part of a pilot study involving 23 patients aged between two and 31 years.
Commenting on the latest news, Professor Richard Anderson, of the University of Edinburgh, said: 'The storage of ovarian tissue to allow restoration of fertility after cancer treatment in girls and young women was pioneered in Edinburgh over 20 years ago, and it is wonderful to see it come to fruition.
Dr Nick Goulden, medical research director at Children with Cancer UK, said: 'The important news from the Edinburgh team, who have pioneered the development of this technology in the UK, offers further hope that re-implanting ovarian tissue frozen prior to successful treatment for cancer can be used to preserve fertility after cure.'
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are known to have serious side effects on reproductive organs that can affect fertility. Ovarian tissue freezing, which involves the removal and storage of the whole or parts of the ovary containing eggs, offers a possible fertility option to young cancer patients who are not yet old enough to produce mature eggs. The technique also offers an option to women who have not been able able to store their eggs prior to cancer treatment.
'When you're going through cancer treatment it can be hard to think about the future, but I do think this will offer hope to others that they could one day have a family,' said the mother in this latest case.
'We never thought it would be possible and we are just astonished and overjoyed. We are extremely grateful to all the people involved in this process.'
The technique, which is still experimental and in the early stages of clinical use, is available to certain NHS patients as part of its fertility preservation options.