Twin girls expected after Australian scientists graft tissue frozen before cancer treatment on to mother’s abdominal wall

Australian doctors and scientists have achieved a world first, helping a woman to become pregnant seven years after her ovaries were removed during cancer treatment, by grafting frozen tissue on to her abdominal wall.

Researchers from Melbourne IVF and the Royal Women’s hospital have given hope to cancer survivors who develop menopause after treatment, after achieving the world’s first pregnancy from the process.

Just before surgery removed her second ovary, Brisbane woman Vali (24), whose surname was not released, asked doctors to preserve some of the tissue in case it was possible to graft it back in the future.

Associate professor Kate Stern, head of fertility preservation at Melbourne IVF, said they did a first graft in 2010 and a second two years later.

“The tissue was put back in the front wall of her abdomen, so that means it’s under the skin and the muscle but not inside the abdomen,” Ms. Stern said.

“We wanted to see if this might help her get pregnant. Then we gave her some very gentle hormone stimulation — not the full-on IVF.”

The process produced two eggs, which were then fertilised and put back in Ms. Vali’s uterus. The couple are now expecting twins.

“[We’re] having two girls. I’m pretty excited,” Ms. Vali said.

Ms. Stern said the likelihood of success when they began the process was small.

“There have been 29 babies born in the world [using this procedure] — but that’s all from tissue that has been grafted back into the ovary or close to the ovary. But still, with that 29 there have been multiple, multiple, multiple attempts."

The process is potentially applicable to other women who have had their tissue removed.

Of the approximately one in 570 young women who will have cancer, Ms. Stern said “many of those patients they will be at risk of developing premature menopause from their cancer treatment”. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2013