A world first gave birth to a woman who had been rendered sterile by cancer treatment after one of her immature eggs had matured, frozen and then – five years later – thawed and fertilized, researchers in France reported.
A study published on Wednesday in the journal Annals of Oncology describes how the boy was born to a 34-year-old French woman who had been treated with chemotherapy for breast cancer.
Before treatment began, doctors removed seven immature eggs from their ovaries and used a technique called in vitro maturation (IVM) to help the eggs develop in the laboratory.
To date, there have been no successful pregnancies in cancer patients with eggs that have undergone IVM and have been frozen.
However, some children were born as a result of IVM, immediately followed by fertilization and transmission to the patient.
Michael Grynberg, head of reproductive medicine and fertility maintenance at Antoine Beclere University Hospital near Paris, recalled hearing about the case of the 29-year-old patient.
"I offered her the option to freeze eggs after IVM and also freeze ovarian tissue," he said in a statement.
"She rejected the second option, which was considered too invasive a few days after the cancer was diagnosed."
The so-called cryopreservation of ovarian tissue is an experimental method in which the outer layer of an ovary – which contains immature eggs – is removed from the body and frozen for future use.
Ultrasound on the French patient showed that there were 17 small, fluid-filled sacks of immature eggs in her ovaries.
But using hormones to stimulate the ovaries to mature would have taken too long and may have exacerbated their cancer, so getting the immature eggs and freezing them would have been the best option.
After five years, the patient recovered from breast cancer but was unable to conceive naturally. The chemo had made her sterile.
Six of the eggs frozen five years earlier survived the thawing process and five were successfully fertilized.
One of these fertilized eggs was transferred to the patient's womb, and on July 6, 2019, she gave birth to a healthy boy named Jules.
"This success is a breakthrough in fertility conservation," said Michael Grynberg.
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