The birth of the first baby born from eggs that were matured and frozen in a laboratory has been hailed as a fertility breakthrough for women with cancer.
The French infant, named Jules, was born to a 34-year-old woman who had been rendered infertile by chemotherapy for breast cancer five years before.
His mother named only as Claudy, was at the wrong stage of her monthly cycle to yield mature eggs, and did not want to delay the start of her cancer treatment. Until now, only women from whom mature eggs could be extracted before the beginning of treatment had a hope of future pregnancy.
The eggs are stored in freezing temperatures, then thawed, fertilised with sperm and implanted into the womb after the cancer risk has passed.
However, those at the wrong stage of their cycle and unable to wait for their eggs to mature before cancer treatment have been left with no option.
Now a team at Antoine Béclère University Hospital, near Paris, have shown for the first time that immature eggs can be extracted, matured in a dish and preserved for years before being fertilised and re-implanted.
The technique promises hope of parenthood for potentially all women of childbearing age, regardless of how urgent the need to start cancer treatment is. Official figures show that between 3,000 and 4,000 women of childbearing age get cancer in England each year.
Prof Adam Balen, former chairman of the British Fertility Society, welcomed the French achievement as for some women, a delay in cancer treatment is significant, and many are anxious to get started regardless.
Describing the two-week wait after implantation before discovering she was pregnant, Claudy said: “It was an emotional roller coaster.”
Two months after Jules was born in July last year, the hospital requested her permission to issue a public statement about her treatment.
“That’s when I understood that it was a world first. I thought about everything I had gone through. And I cried as I realised how lucky I was,” she said.
Her case is described in the journal Annals of Oncology.
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