Treating Infertility and Cancer with an Ovarian Tissue Graft

woman give birth to twins following ovarian tissue graftThe news of discovering you have ovarian cancer can be devastating, especially for women who are wishing to conceive. The long-term effects of chemotherapy and radiation usually destroy ovarian tissue; this has an adverse effect on a woman’s fertility.

Using Ovarian Tissue to Treat Infertility Following Cancer

Vali Creus from Australia was diagnosed with ovarian cancer years ago, specialists removed her cancerous ovary and the other was cryopreserved. Many years later, specialists grafted her frozen ovary in a special procedure, in an attempt for her to conceive a child. Three years later, she became the first mother in the world to have twins following an ovarian tissue graft. However, immediately after the birth of her twins, doctors found cancerous cells and successively removed them – Creus is now in remission. Just recently, Revital, an Israeli women become the second to have twins following an ovarian tissue graft. Revital was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer a few years ago; doctors informed her at the time that the cancer treatment would render her infertile.

Cryopreservation of oocytes (eggs) has been around for years as a means for women to have the ability to conceive later in life. Women choose this procedure either prior to cancer treatment (or discovering they have a condition that may affect their fertility) or they wish to conceive later in life. Cryopreservation of ovarian tissue has its advantages as women can freeze hundreds to thousands of eggs – in comparison to oocyte preservation (that requires ovulatory stimulating drugs) and fewer eggs frozen in one cycle.

Who Can Benefit from an Ovarian Tissue Graft?

Specialists are now directing their attention to ovarian tissue cryopreservation and grafting the tissue to the abdominal wall – amazingly, the ovarian tissue is still able to function and produce eggs. Women with severe pelvic disease can further benefit from this procedure too. Depending on the individual case, a woman can conceive naturally or with assisted reproductive technology, like IVF.

This revolutionary treatment has successfully assisted around 30 women around the world to conceive. It also gives hope to women wishing to conceive that are (or were) diagnosed with cancer or a condition that left them infertile – even after years of infertility. Healthy women may also opt for this procedure as a precaution, especially if they have a family history of ovarian cancer, for example.

The challenge of this revolutionary treatment lies in detecting residual cancer cells that may have spread to the healthy ovarian tissue prior to removal. Fertility specialists are now researching new techniques to eliminate the need of grafting ovarian tissue (and avoid the risk of transferring further cancer cells to healthy tissue) by stimulating egg production in laboratory conditions.

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