Frozen ovarian tissue implanted back into cancer sufferer may give hope to infertile women

Frozen ovarian tissue implanted back into cancer sufferer may give hope to infertile women

A British woman has had frozen ovary tissue inserted back into her by a robot in a pioneering operation - raising hopes for women left infertile.

Emma Leach, 39, was left infertile and went through the menopause after undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. She had pieces of her ovaries frozen five years ago following her diagnosis and they have now been put back into her body. Professor Kutluk Oktay, a New York-based fertility pioneer, agreed to carry out the operation. Ms Leach, from London, went under the knife in the U.S. after a series of consultations over the internet via Skype. She had been searching for over a year before coming across obstetrics and gynecology expert Dr Oktay who agreed to carry out the procedure.

The former businesswoman was warned that the chances of success are low. Her ovary was cut open by the robot and the tissue which had been removed and frozen before her chemotherapy treatment was stitched inside.

More pieces of tissue which were too small to stitch in were then injected into the other ovary by the pioneering equipment. She was discharged from hospital within hours of the procedure. Professor Kutluk Oktay, who performed the procedure for the first time, told the Sunday Times: 'The robotic arms mimics the movement of the hand but there is much more precision.

'There is no hand tremor - this allows the surgeon to do fine suturing at microscopic levels without having to put patients through invasive surgery.'

The robot - named Da Vinci - has previously been used for carrying out heart operations and treating cancer. There was some hormonal function after the operation - although it was short-lived. It was thought the problems occurred because only a small amount of tissue had been frozen. The news will give new hope to thousands of women around the world who are left infertile after going through chemotherapy. Professor Oktay, who will present his medical account of the first robotic ovarian transplant at a meeting of the Transatlantic Reproductive Technologies Network (TARTEN) next month, said: 'It is a partial success.'

The British team froze only a small amount of tissue because they intended it to be used for a different procedure from ovary transplant. This procedure did not take off, however, and so the restricted amount of ovarian tissue was used in the transplant.

Leach wishes that, five years ago, she had frozen a whole ovary rather than small fragments, given that these organs were destroyed by the chemotherapy. This would have given her a greater chance of her ovaries working again.

She has set up a website at to campaign for young women to routinely have their ovaries frozen ahead of chemotherapy for breast cancer.

Article: 28th march 2010

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Posted: 28/03/2011 16:46:39


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