A woman in Belgium is the first to give birth to a baby using transplanted ovarian tissue that was frozen when she was a child. Born in November 2014, the boy is the first baby to be born using frozen ovarian tissue and gives hope to hundreds of cancer patients who were concerned that they would be unable to start a family as a result of chemotherapy.
The 27 year old woman, who has chosen to remain anonymous, underwent surgery to remove the ovary when she was only 13, just before she started invasive treatment for sickle cell anaemia. Her remaining ovary was damaged by the treatment and she would not have been able to conceive without the transplant.
Following the diagnosis of sickle cell anaemia at the age of five, she required a bone marrow transplant from her brother but, before this operation, she had chemotherapy to disable her immune system to prevent it from rejecting the foreign tissue.
Ten years later, doctors in Brussels began the fertility treatment and grafted four fragments of ovarian tissue onto her remaining ovary, which was no longer able to function following the chemotherapy. She soon started menstruating and became pregnant a few months later.
One of the doctors involved, Dr Demeestere, told The Telegraph: “This is an important breakthrough in the field because children are the patients who are most likely to benefit from the procedure in the future. When they are diagnosed with diseases that require treatment that can destroy ovarian function, freezing ovarian tissue is the only available option for preserving their fertility.”
It is reported that 1,600 children each year are diagnosed with cancer, most commonly, leukaemia. Treatments for the disease can destroy future fertility and the success of the transplant gives women and young girls undergoing treatment for cancer, including leukaemia, sickle cell disease and sarcoma, the hope that they will still be able to have a family.
Dr Demeestere said that thousands of patients had now undergone the procedure to
freeze their tissue in her clinic, 20% of whom were children. However, she told The Telegraph that: “Future investigation needs to be carried out in the use of the procedure in pre-pubertal girls as our patient had already started puberty even though she had not started menstruating."
Many of Penningtons Manches’ clients have undergone treatment for diseases, including chemotherapy for cancer, which can destroy their fertility. This breakthrough brings hope to such patients that they will still be able to start a family in the future.