An Israeli woman who became infertile from cancer treatment has given birth to a healthy baby girl after an ovarian tissue transplant, the first clear example of the procedure’s success, doctors said on Tuesday.
She gave birth on Monday at Israel’s Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv.
“Her ovaries were damaged completely from the chemotherapy treatment and she would never have been able to have children ... she was in permanent menopause,” said Dr Joshua Dor, Director of infertility at the center.
Doctors at the center extracted and froze tissue from her ovaries before she underwent a round of high dose chemotherapy treatment several years ago.
The tissue, regrafted onto her ovaries after she recovered from the disease, produced an egg that was fertilized through in vitro fertilisation.
Dor said it was the first time that transplanted ovarian tissue in a woman who was completely infertile from chemotherapy had resulted in a birth. The case appeared on The New England Journal of Medicine’s Web site prior to publication next month.
“The potential is there. We still have to improve the technique,” Dor said.
A Belgian woman, who also had cancer, gave birth last year after her own frozen ovarian tissue was put back in her body but some experts said it was possible her existing ovaries had produced the egg.
Dor’s team will soon transplant ovarian tissue removed from an 18-year-old Israeli woman eight years ago before she underwent chemotherapy for Hodgkin’s disease. The woman is now in her mid-20s and recently married.
Ultimately the transplant procedure might be used to help older women who want to have children later in life.
Unlike sperm, which remains viable after being kept frozen for extended periods, frozen ovum are rarely able to produce an embryo. Freezing and transplanting ovarian tissue instead might make it easier for women to conceive in their late 30s and 40s when their fertility drops and they face menopause, Dor said.
“If we succeeded in a patient who had two courses of chemotherapy and the ovaries were severely damaged and still she conceived, then I am sure that patients who didn’t have any damage to their ovaries will be much more successful.”
But the procedure is not without risks.
Dor and his team said in their article there was a theoretical chance that malignant cells could enter the body along with the transplanted ovarian tissue.
Revision date: June 22, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD