The banking of Ovarian Tissue
The freezing of ovarian tissue.
The decision to surgically remove and store ovarian tissue is not made lightly. The procedure is only performed in Belgium if there is a fair chance that the fertility of the patient will be able to be restored after cancer treatment.
The chances of survival for young women with certain types of cancer have greatly increased over recent years, thanks to the development of more aggressive chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment methods. However, although these more aggressive forms of treatment do improve the patients' chance of a full recovery, they also damage woman's fertility.
Even though ovarian tissue freezing is still in its infancy, patients due to receive aggressive kinds of cancer treatment should not hesitate about having ovarian tissue removed and frozen, in order to maximize their chances of being able to remain fertile in the future.
Chemo and radiotherapy are not selective on the cells which they attack and therefore have a destructive effect on other cells apart from the cancer cells. These include the cells present in the ovaries. For further information see cancer treatment and female fertility and preservation of ovarian tissue.
One preventative measure is the removal of ovarian tissue via a laparoscopic intervention, before the cancer treatment begins. It has been shown that ovarian tissue can be safely frozen and stored. Tissue peeled off from ovaries contains thousands of unripe egg cells, which are able to withstand the freezing and storage process at -196°c.
For information regarding the CRG's research projects in this area, see follicle biology.
From ovarian tissue that has been stored at te CRG in Brussels two healthy babies were born from transplanted tissue in mothers cured from cancer.