Research offers fertility hope to women who must take anti-cancer drugs
WOMEN who must undergo treatment with powerful anti-cancer drugs and risk becoming infertile may be offered new hope thanks to research at an Irish clinic.
HARI, the national fertility centre at the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin, has been given research funding to develop a new technology which could see the women freeze ovarian tissue in the clinic.
Dr Lynne O' Shea, HARI research assistant, said the national cryopreservation centre for Ireland already allows for women to preserve eggs if they are undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
"Hundreds of female cancer patients have availed of the cryopreservation facilities at HARI since 2003," she added.
"It offers patients an opportunity to pursue lifesaving cancer treatment without the worry of potentially becoming infertile.
"However, not all females diagnosed with cancer can avail of such services.
"Some need to start their cancer treatment immediately, while others have cancers that can be unsuitable for in vitro fertilisation (IVF).
"This new ovarian freezing technology will particularly benefit these patients and is regarded as the next frontier in fertility preservation."
The research award is one of 50 which have been given out through a grant scheme worth €5.7m from the Irish Research Council.
Dr O'Shea pointed out that the human ovary "is very sensitive to chemotherapy or radiotherapy" so the idea of being able to remove some ovarian tissue prior to treatment, store it safely and reinstate it when the woman is cancer cured, will offer tremendous hope to those women who currently have no option for fertility preservation.
The most high-profile success involved a woman in Denmark who became the first in the world to give birth to a second child after an ovary transplant operation.
The first child was born through IVF and the second was born naturally.
Her ovarian tissue was continuing to function more than four years after being transplanted back into her body.
Her doctors said that more tissue remained frozen in liquid nitrogen, and could remain functional for as long as 40 years.
The woman had been diagnosed with a rare type of bone tumour, when she was 27.
Pieces of her left ovary were removed and frozen before her cancer treatment began. Her right ovary had already been removed some time earlier, due to a cyst.