A case study, published in Annals of Oncology,reports on the birth of the first baby to be born to a cancer patient from an immature egg that was matured in the laboratory, frozen, then thawed and fertilised five years later.
Prof Joyce Harper, Professor in Human Genetics and Embryology, University College London (UCL), said:
“For the first time, the French group have combined two existing technologies. In vitro maturation of human eggs and vitrification of mature eggs used together in a cancer patient will ensure that these patients have another option to retain their fertility.”
Prof Adam Balen, Professor of Reproductive Medicine and Surgery, Leeds University Teaching Hospital, said:
“This appears to be the first report of the use of in vitro maturation (IVM) of immature eggs collected from unstimulated ovaries of a woman who very rapidly needed to undergo treatment for cancer, thereby preserving her fertility. The eggs were matured in the laboratory before being frozen and have since been thawed, fertilised and enabled the birth of a baby. IVM has been used in fertility treatments for over 20 years but has a limited role as the success rates are lower than when mature eggs are collected from ovaries that have been stimulated by hormones. Hormonal stimulation usually takes 9-11 days and can be started at any time in a woman’s cycle and so should delay the start of cancer treatment by no more than 2 weeks, which in the vast majority of cases has no bearing on the outcome of the treatment. IVM enables faster progress to cancer treatment as the eggs are matured in the lab and so is a valuable option for those women where a delay could be critical, accepting the lower number of mature eggs that would then be frozen compared with the number anticipated after the stimulation of the ovaries for the collection of mature eggs.”
Prof Alastair Sutcliffe , UCL and Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, said:
“The press release accurately represents the science. This is not research as such but harnessing known techniques to result in a viable pregnancy with the conclusions backed up by a single case study.
“While caution must be considered in any new advance, this new technique could in future be an additional tool for women who have the tragedy of cancer before reproduction to have their own genetic child.”
Prof Richard Anderson, Head of Section of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, MRC Centre for Reproductive Health, University of Edinburgh, said:
“Getting eggs to mature successfully after removal from the ovary has been a challenge, so this is a very welcome positive step. It requires a different set of skills to normal IVF, so it isn’t widely available, but this report shows it can work, when time is very short. Freezing eggs at this stage also means that they remain the women’s own property, without the complication that using a partner’s sperm to fertilise them brings, in that embryos are the couple’s joint property. This advance is particularly important for cancer patients, but its also a step towards easier and less invasive IVF for other women and couples needing assisted reproduction.”
‘First birth achieved after fertility preservation using vitrification of in vitro matured oocytes in a woman with breast cancer’ by M Grynberg et al. was published in Annals of Oncology at 00:01 UK time on Wednesday 19th February.
Prof Adam Balen: No COI
Prof Alastair Sutcliffe: No COI
Prof Richard Anderson: No COI
None others received.