World first: baby born to cancer survivor whose eggs were matured in a lab

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images 

A cancer survivor has given birth to a baby born from an egg which was removed prior to chemotherapy treatment five years earlier, then matured in a lab and frozen.

The 34-year-old French woman was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 29, with treatment so urgent there was no time to mature the eggs prior to removal.

The woman opted to try in vitro maturation (IVM), a lab procedure where the ovum is cultured with hormones to mature them for fertilisation.

Usually, ovarian stimulation hormones are administered before harvesting occurs, to mature the eggs.

Seven immature eggs were removed, lab-matured and frozen, with five successfully fertilised after thawing five years later when the woman's cancer was in remission.

One embryo was implanted, resulting in a full-term healthy baby boy called Jules, who was born on July 6, 2019.

A report released by the medical staff involved in the procedure revealed that the woman tried to have a baby for a year before approaching doctors about assisted conception.

After ensuing tests revealed she was infertile after her cancer treatment, she was advised against ovarian stimulation for traditional IVF, so she opted to thaw and implant her lab-matured frozen eggs.

Michaël Grynberg, head of the reproductive and fertility department at Antoine Béclère University Hospital said in a statement, "We were delighted that the patient became pregnant without any difficulty and successfully delivered a healthy baby at term. My team and I trusted that IVM could work when ovarian stimulation was not feasible."

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"Until now, there have been no successful pregnancies in cancer patients after eggs that have undergone IVM and vitrification, although some children have been born as a result of IVM followed by immediate fertilisation and transfer to the patient without freezing," said a report about the case.

Dr Grynberg said, "This success represents a breakthrough in the field of fertility preservation," adding that he and his team had gone on to harvest, lab-mature and freeze many more cancer patients' eggs and that they had always hoped to be the first to produce a baby from the groundbreaking approach.

"IVM enables us to freeze eggs or embryos in urgent situations or when it would be hazardous for the patient to undergo ovarian stimulation. In addition, using them is not associated with a risk of cancer recurrence."

The procedure is ideally used in conjunction with ovarian tissue harvesting, but this runs the risk of agitating the cancer, and reintroducing cancerous cells to the woman's body when the tissue is later re-implanted - risks the woman was not willing to take.

Dr Grynberg said, "We are aware that eggs matured in the lab are of lower quality when compared to those obtained after ovarian stimulation. However, our success with Jules shows that this technique should be considered a viable option for female fertility preservation."