Successful Ovarian Tissue Transplants Bring Promise of Fertility in Cancer Survivors

A retrospective follow-up in women who had received grafts of cryopreserved ovarian tissue discovered a 30% success rate in bearing a child.

Loss of fertility is a major quality of life concern for cancer patients treated with toxic chemotherapy. A study conducted in Denmark now offers hope to survivors to start a family after having recovered from their disease and its associated treatment.

Published in the journal Human Reproduction, the study retrospectively followed 41 Danish women who had a total of 53 transplantations of thawed ovarian tissue over a 10-year period. The authors of the study monitored these women for ovarian function, fertility outcome, and relapse in cancer survivors. Of the 32 women who wished to conceive, 24 clinical pregnancies were established, and 10 (about 31%) had a child/children (14 children born). Additionally, 2 legal abortions and 1 miscarriage in the second trimester occurred. In some of the women who had undergone the transplantation procedure, the ovarian tissue was functional for nearly a decade. While 3 women had disease relapse, the authors did not attribute it to the transplanted ovarian tissue.

The authors conclude that their study provides evidence for integrating cryopreservation of ovarian tissue into clinical practice for young women being treated for cancer if they are at risk of losing their fertility following treatment.

“As far as we know this is the largest series of ovarian tissue transplantation performed worldwide,” according to Annette Jensen, MD, the lead author on the study. “The fact that cancer survivors are now able to have a child of their own is an immense, quality-of-life boost for them,” she said. She added that while fertility preservation is increasingly being introduced in the mainstream, safety and efficacy studies are warranted.