Being diagnosed with cancer is something that is hard enough to come to terms with, but to be told that your treatment may make you infertile, can also be an emotional shock.
For some it’s possible to preserve your eggs to give the opportunity of trying for the family you always dreamed of post treatment
This is exactly the experience of a 34 year old French woman, in what doctors are calling a world first – the first known case of ‘lab matured eggs’ being successfully frozen and then used to create an embryo.
The woman, who hasn’t been named, became infertile after having chemotherapy for breast cancer when she was just 29 years old
She had her ‘lab matured eggs’ frozen at the time, using a process called IVM, or in vitro maturation, and five years later had one of the seven eggs thawed and fertilised
At the time of her cancer treatment, she felt removal of ovarian tissue too invasive
Doctors ruled out the standard IVF procedure in case the hormones to stimulate the woman’s ovaries to produce eggs, might exacerbate her cancer
The preferred route taken to preserve the fertility of young cancer patients has been to remove ovarian tissue that contains immature eggs, and to freeze it for future use.
Head of the fertility preserving department of the Antoine Beclere University Hospital near Paris, Michael Grynberg said that instead, the patient opted for IVM. Before her cancer treatment, she had immature eggs removed from her ovaries, which were then matured in the lab and frozen in liquid nitrogen.
Five years later, unable to get pregnant naturally, one of her eggs was thawed and then fertilised with her partner’s sperm, before being transferred to her womb
Usually, immature eggs tend not to be used during assisted reproduction techniques, as to date, there has been little medical evidence that they can survive the freezing, thawing and in vitro maturation techniques used. The techniques have been tried in the UK and the US, but the eggs tended to have “many abnormalities”.
Until now there had been no successful pregnancies in cancer patients with eggs that have undergone IVM and freezing. However, some children have been born using IVM immediately followed by fertilisation and transfer to the patient.
But in this case, the woman gave birth to a baby boy in July last year!
Michael Grynberg said “We were delighted that the patient became pregnant without any difficulty and successfully delivered a healthy baby at term. This success represents a breakthrough in the field of fertility preservation.”
Richard Anderson, head of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Edinburgh said, “Getting eggs to mature successfully after removal from the ovary has been a challenge, so this is a very welcome positive step. This advance is particularly important for cancer patients, but it’s also a step towards easier and less invasive IVF for other women and couples needing assisted reproduction.”
We’re delighted to hear such a beautiful story and can’t thank the pioneering and dedicated research scientists enough for allowing these amazing things to happen