A SURVIVING cancer patient who had her ovaries removed is to become the mother of twins, thanks to an IVF breakthrough.
Ironically, it was ovarian cancer treatment to save her life seven years ago that made the woman, an Australian known only by her first name of Vali, infertile.
But in a revolutionary treatment, she had tissue from her ovaries stored in the hope that one day the impossible might happen.
Now she is nearly 26 weeks pregnant after growing eggs in ovarian tissue transplanted into her abdomen in a world-first procedure. “I think we all had a big cry together, really” said 30-year-old Vali yesterday when asked for her reaction and that of the scientists at her pregnancy.
Her so-called “miracle twins” are due to be born the week before Christmas.
Scientists in Melbourne helped Vali grow egg follicles and produce two healthy eggs by transplanting tiny slices of her frozen ovarian tissue into her abdominal wall and stimulating it with a mild hormone treatment. After IVF eggs were retrieved, two healthy embryos were implanted back into her uterus. It is the first successful graft outside the pelvis, giving give new hope to thousands of women who have had ovarian cancer or pelvic disease that they could still have children.
Vali’s fertility specialist, Kate Stern, said it had taken years and required almost daily testing and other procedures to achieve the pregnancy.
“She has been doing this relentlessly with us since 2010,” Professor Stern said. She said Vali had remained strong throughout. “Never once did she waver and tell us it was too hard and she wanted to give up.”
Prof Stern said she had worked closely with an oncologist to ensure Vali’s ovarian tissue did not have cancer cells in it, and the pioneering procedure would now provide hope to other cancer survivors. “We can get good quality eggs, good quality embryos and we can have viable pregnancies,” she said.
“We have proven ovarian tissue can still work and function normally outside the pelvis, which is its normal environment. For patients who have severe pelvic disease where we can’t put the tissue back, we can now offer these patients the realistic chance of getting pregnant.”
Only about 26 babies have been born worldwide after ovarian tissue transplant, but this is the first time the tissue has been successfully transplanted at an entirely different site in the body to where it was taken from.
Gab Kovacs, the international medical director of Monash IVF, which carried out the first successful ovarian tissue transplant, said: “If I had a patient who was going to lose their fertility to cancer treatment, I would offer it from now on.”