November 26, 2004

Tissue Transplant Offers Hope

In a world first, a 32-year-old Belgian woman has given birth to a healthy daughter following the re implantation of ovarian tissue seven years after becoming infertile through chemotherapy.

Slices of the woman's ovarian tissue were removed and frozen before she started chemotherapy for Hodgkin's lymphoma. She subsequently became infertile, but her ovarian tissue, which had been frozen for seven years, was reimplanted. Eleven months later the woman became pregnant by natural fertilisation.

Professor Ian Coates from the Cancer Council told the ANJ the technique offered new hope for young women facing cancer treatment, and represented the same advantage to women that frozen sperm had provided to men for decades.

'Many types of cancer treatment, particularly radiation therapy directed anywhere near the pelvis, and some forms of chemotherapy, have a strong chance of making someone permanently infertile.'

'So this technique offers great hope for young women who have not yet had a family and are facing cancer treatment that may prevent them from doing so.'

Chair of the Cancer Nurses Society, RN Kate Cameron, said it was important for nurses working in cancer care to be aware of the development, as they provided education and advice to women, not only about the side effects of treatment, but also about fertility risks and options for fertility preservation.

'In 2000, 2,738 Australian women aged between 20 and 39 years were diagnosed with a cancer that, through its treatment, may have affected their fertility. So it is an important clinical and emotive issue for those young women. While it is early days [in the development of this technique], it looks very promising for the future.'

A similar procedure, reported in The Lancet in March 2004, where USA researchers successfully implanted an embryo using in-vitro fertilisation, did not result in pregnancy.

-The Lancet

Copyright Australian Nursing Federation Nov 2004