[Jul 01, 2004]
For the first time, a woman who underwent an ovarian tissue transplant has become pregnant, doctors from the Universite Catholique de Louvain in Brussels announced on Tuesday at the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology annual conference in Berlin, Reuters reports (Reuters, 6/29). The patient, who is now 32 years old, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1997 and underwent surgery to remove tissue from one of her ovaries before receiving chemotherapy treatment, according to lead researcher Dr. Jacques Donnez and colleagues. Doctors left one ovary in her body and froze the ovarian tissue that they removed, according to BBC News. In April 2003, after the patient's cancer was in remission, doctors thawed the frozen ovarian tissue and transplanted it into her body near her existing ovary, BBC News reports (Ryan, BBC News, 6/29). By June 2003, the woman's transplanted ovarian tissue had begun producing eggs, and the woman was confirmed to be pregnant in April, London's Guardian reports (Boseley, Guardian, 6/30). The fetus was conceived naturally without any interventions and is due in October, according to the doctors. Universite Catholique de Louvain in a statement said that Donnez and his colleagues "have managed to achieve what no other team in the world has yet been able to do -- given a young woman, who underwent cryopreservation of ovarian tissue prior to treatment, the gift of pregnancy" (Washington Post, 6/30).
Dr. Yding Andersen of the University Hospital of Copenhagen, who is waiting to see if an ovarian transplant patient he has treated will become pregnant, said the findings are "absolutely a breakthrough," adding that the research "has huge implications for a lot of women around the world" (BBC News, 6/29). However, Dr. Kutluk Oktay, a fertility expert at Cornell University Weill Medical College, said that more details of Donnez's research are needed because "[i]f you leave women alone, there is a chance of spontaneous recovery of ovarian function." However, he said there "is a viable possibility that the pregnancy came from this graft" (Reuters, 6/29). Oktay and colleagues in March in the online version of the Lancet reported producing a healthy human embryo using an egg collected from transplanted frozen ovarian tissue. The researchers removed and then froze ovarian tissue from a 30-year-old woman before she underwent chemotherapy for breast cancer and six years later thawed and implanted the tissue, which began producing eggs. Researchers collected the eggs, selected one for fertilization and then implanted the resulting embryo in the woman's uterus. However, no pregnancy developed (Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report, 3/15).