July 3, 2007 in Nation/World

Method brings hope for girls with cancer

Maria Cheng Associated Press
 

LYON, France – Doctors have removed eggs from young female cancer patients and – for the first time – brought the eggs to maturity before freezing them, giving the girls a better chance to one day have children.

Previously, scientists had thought viable eggs could only be obtained from girls who had undergone puberty.

“We didn’t expect young girls to have eggs that could withstand the process of maturation,” which involves adding hormones, said Dr. Ariel Revel, who led the research at the Hadassah Hospital in Israel.

The research will be presented today at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Lyon.

In related work, Canadian doctors on Monday announced the first birth of a baby from eggs matured in a laboratory, frozen, thawed and then fertilized – a key development that holds promise for infertile women.

The year-old baby girl was born to a woman in Canada, doctors told the conference. Three other women are pregnant from eggs that had been matured in a lab, frozen, thawed and then implanted, they said.

Until now, doctors did not know whether eggs matured in a lab could withstand the fertilization process, adding that the research is still in early stages.

In the study involving young girls with cancer, Revel surgically extracted the eggs and then artificially matured them in a laboratory, with the idea of re-implanting them one day should the patient wish to have children.

To obtain the eggs, Revel and his colleagues performed surgery on 18 patients ages 5 to 20. Of 167 eggs, 41 were successfully matured, including some from prepubescent donors.

“Any advance that enables young women to have children one day after having cancer is positive,” said Simon Davies, head of Teenage Cancer Trust, a charity based in Britain. Davies was not linked to the research.

The real test will come when the girls on whom the treatment was performed might be ready to have children. “We will only know the final chapter of this story in about 10 years, when we hope to close the circle of this research,” Revel said.

None of the eggs has yet been thawed.

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