First baby born in England following ovarian tissue graft
Dr Maria Botcharova, Progress Educational Trust
05 December 2022

[BioNews, London]

A baby has been born in England for the first time to a mother who had tissue from her ovary removed before breast cancer treatment, and then had it regrafted back.

The mother of the recently born baby had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer in 2018, at the age of 33. She and her husband wanted the chance to have a baby later, but the advanced stage of her cancer meant that she could not delay her treatment by the weeks that egg freezing could take. Her ovary was removed using keyhole surgery, and tissue containing eggs was frozen at -180°C. After successful cancer treatment was completed, the tissue was re-implanted onto her remaining ovary, and she was able to conceive through IVF.

'We offer a clinical service to children and young adults across the UK who are at high risk of infertility and who cannot store mature eggs or sperm. It's quite unique in that sense and very much focused on their future.' Dr Sheila Lane, consultant paediatric oncologist at Oxford Children's Hospital and director at the Oxford Fertility Tissue Cryopreservation Programme told The Times.

This cryopreservation procedure is most often offered to children and young adults who require treatment such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, which can cause infertility. Unlike regular egg freezing, the removal of ovary tissue does not require the ovary to be fully formed before removal, which means that it gives children undergoing cancer treatment a chance to have a child later in life. It can also be performed very quickly, allowing urgent cancer treatment to progress.

Although this was the first birth following this procedure in England, it follows an earlier one in 2017 in Scotland, where the freezing of both ovarian and testicular tissue, as well as gametes and ovaries, receives dedicated funding.

In England, the procedure is currently offered through the National Paediatric Fertility Preservation Service by a small number of doctors, working on a voluntary basis. Since 2013, they have performed the procedure for around 2700 people.

'Sometimes I get a call from someone saying 'I need an ovary out tomorrow because we need to start treatment on Friday', and we can do that' Nic Alexander, consultant neonatal and paediatric surgeon at Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea Hospital, St Mary's Hospital told The Times.

'But we've reached a critical juncture with the biobank in Oxford where they can only process two cases a day' he continued. 'We have had a couple of cases where children aren't offered treatment, because there isn't enough time'

'We know that a significant number of patients who become infertile in their teenage years have serious mental health issues. We would never think it was the right thing to chop off a child's leg because they have bone cancer and not give them a prosthesis so they can walk.' Alexander added 'Now there is something we can do and I think this should be seen as being an integral part of cancer care.'

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Reproduced from BioNews with permission, a web- and email-based source of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and human genetics, published by Progress Educational Trust.

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