Post-chemo woman pregnant after ovary tissue transplant

by Georgina Scambler & Sunanda Creagh
In a first for Australia, an ovarian tissue transplant has helped a woman fall pregnant after chemotherapy. Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stacylynn/

For the first time ever in Australia, a woman whose chemotherapy rendered her infertile has fallen pregnant using ovarian tissue taken from her body before her cancer treatment, a new study reports.

Chemotherapy commonly kills the in a woman's ovaries but the radical new technique, which has only been successful in 20 cases world wide, offers new hope to women who hope to conceive after .

In the Australian case described in the , the woman in question underwent an operation at age 37, just before her chemotherapy for began.

Doctors collected a small sample of tissue from the surface of the ovary and froze it.

"Even though it's a small sample, there could be tens of thousands of eggs in it," said Professor Gabor Kovacs, International Medical Director at Monash .

After the woman's chemotherapy was completed at age 43, Dr Lynn Burmeister and Professor Kovacs implanted the stored sample into her , where the cells were absorbed by the surrounding tissue.

"As soon as she started ovulating again, we did IVF and she is now in her second trimester of pregnancy," he said, but added that it was technically also possibly for a woman to fall pregnant without IVF following the tissue .

"The whole process of storing ovarian tissue is very quick and inexpensive. I can see a person today, take the tissue tomorrow and they start on Wednesday," he said.

Professor Kovacs said the process may not work if there were not enough eggs in the tissue sample taken, if the eggs did not survive the freezing process or if to the implanted was not reestablished after transplantation.

Despite the ease of the procedure, Professor Kovacs said he would not recommend it to women unless it was medically required.

"Some people have said should all young people being doing this, just in case? My answer is definitely not," he said.

"It's early days, it requires multiple operations. To do it for social reasons is not indicated."

Professor Michael Davies, an IVF expert from the Lifecourse and Intergenerational Health Research Group at the University of Adelaide said the breakthrough would provide hope for many couples hoping to conceive after cancer treatment.

"However, with only 20 or so births globally, it's still extremely experimental in its nature. So it's a long way from being a routine treatment at the moment," said Professor Davies, who was not involved in the research.

"As the author states, it's difficult to calculate a success rate from this given that it's the first instance in Australia, and its really only a pregnancy as yet, we're not reporting a live birth of a healthy child. So quite a few of these pregnancies won't carry to term. So it's a sign of the technical feasibility of obtaining a pregnancy, and hopefully the live birth of a healthy child."

It was also important to consider the long-term health consequences of the offspring from the new combination of treatments, he said, but overall the breakthrough indicated the quality of Australian reproductive biology research.

"Clinics and researchers in Australia have consistently been at the forefront of innovation. The first IVF pregnancy in the world was in Melbourne, and they just got pipped getting the first birth," he said.

"The reproductive research in Australia really is among the very best globally."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Pioneering IVF doctor dies in Australia

Sep 27, 2011

A pioneering Australian doctor known for his groundbreaking work on the world's first pregnancy through in vitro fertilisation (IVF) has died after a long illness.

New IVF breakthrough

Sep 24, 2012

Researchers at the University of Gothenburg have discovered that a chemical can trigger the maturation of small eggs to healthy, mature eggs, a process that could give more women the chance of successful IVF treatment in ...

The surprising power of the pill

Mar 24, 2008

Women who have tried to conceive using in vitro fertilization (IVF) methods are painfully aware that timing is of the essence. There are cancelled vacations, too many sick days taken from work, and the necessity to plan ...

What does delaying childbearing cost?

Mar 14, 2012

Freezing eggs or ovarian tissue for the sole purpose of delaying childbearing for social reasons may prove too costly for society, according to a recent analysis by a University of Illinois at Chicago researcher.

Recommended for you

Is egg freezing an empowering option for women?

Nov 17, 2014

Katie Hammond, a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology researching the experience of egg donation in Canada, discusses the recent decision by tech giants Facebook and Apple to offer egg freezing to ...

Peripheral nerve blocks OK for migraines in pregnancy

Nov 14, 2014

(HealthDay)—For migraines that do not respond to medications, peripheral nerve blocks may be a treatment option in pregnant women, according to research published online Nov. 5 in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Hearing the heart of the mother and her baby

Nov 14, 2014

A group of students from the Autonomous Metropolitan University of Mexico (UAM-I) developed a technological portable prototype able to diagnose health conditions in the mother and in the baby by monitoring ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.