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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2014  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 16-18

Fertility preservation for ovarian or uterine cancer patients with reference to assisted reproduction technology

Head and Chief Embryologist, Thomson Fertility Centre, Singapore

Date of Web Publication11-Dec-2014

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Ethiraj Balaji Prasath
Thomson Fertility Centre, Novena Specialist Center, # 07-02, 8, Sinaran Drive 307470
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2394-4285.146701

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Fertility preservation has been paid much attention recently, as the survival rate of cancer patients after therapy has increased significantly. Cryopreservation of gametes or embryos has been practiced prior to cancer therapy, to preserve fertility, as various modes of cancer therapy are gonadotoxic, reducing reproductive potential of cancer survivors. Although cryopreserving semen or testicular tissue has been the prominent means of fertility preservation for men, it has been still experimental for pre-pubertal boys. Treating by Assisted reproduction Techniques with cryopreservation of oocytes or embryos is the promising way of fertility preservation in women prior to cancer therapy. Livebirths have been reported after auto transplantation of cryopreserved ovarian cortex. Such an approach may not be practical in women with ovarian or endometrial or Estrogen sensitive breast cancer as transplantation of ovarian cortex may reintroduce the disease. Oophorectomy in such patients is not uncommon leading to total infertility of patients. Alternative approaches are available to preserve fertility of such women. Harvesting oocytes for cryopreservation in women without male partners or embryos after in vitro maturation and ICSI of harvested oocytes in women with male partners have been reported as modern means of fertility preservation in ovarian cancer patients. Efficacy of such approaches is reviewed in this article.

Keywords: Fertility preservation, IVM, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer

How to cite this article:
Prasath EB. Fertility preservation for ovarian or uterine cancer patients with reference to assisted reproduction technology. Fertil Sci Res 2014;1:16-8

How to cite this URL:
Prasath EB. Fertility preservation for ovarian or uterine cancer patients with reference to assisted reproduction technology. Fertil Sci Res [serial online] 2014 [cited 2022 Jan 26];1:16-8. Available from: https://www.fertilityscienceresearch.org/text.asp?2014/1/1/16/146701

  Introduction Top

Treating cancer has been the greatest challenge of medical fraternity for so many decades. One in every 250 adult is predicted to be a childhood cancer survivor in this decade (Blatt, 1999). [1] Advances made in chemo/radio therapy have increased the lifespan of cancer survivors. Chemo and radiotherapy leads to gonadal dysfunction in men and women (Howell and Shalet, 1998) [2] leading to reduced fertility potential of cancer survivors in reproductive age. The chemo and radiotherapy agents are gonadotoxic and result in premature failure of reproductive function. Dose of chemotherapy agent and age of patient influence the extent of gonadal failure (Byrne et al., 1992). [3] Fertility preservation, therefore, has to be planned prior to treatment of cancer.

  Role of oncologists Top

Oncologists must counsel the patients prior to cancer therapy on the effect of chemotherapy or radiotherapy on fertility potential and options of fertility preservation with Assisted Reproductive Technology (Lee et al., 2006). [4] A survey in America showed that less than half of the oncologists refer patients to fertility preservation program (Quinn et al., 2009). [5] The awareness of fertility preservation among oncologists in Asia cannot be commented on now as no literature available. However, educating oncologists through public articles, continuing medical education (CME) programs, etc., is warranted at present.

  Fertility preservation in men Top

Cryopreservation of sperm produced through masturbation is the common mean of fertility preservation in men (Osterberg et al., 2014). [6] Samples may be obtained from anejaculatory men by vibratory or electro ejaculation techniques (Stahl et al., 2012). [7] Testicular extraction of sperm is prescribed to obtain viable sperm in azoospermic men, particularly with testicular tumors (Schrader et al., 2003). [8] However, such approaches are viable options in post-pubertal men. Fertility preservation by cryopreservation of testicular tissue or in vitro maturation of sperm cells in pre-pubertalboys is still experimental (Stensvold et al., 2011). [9]

  Fertility preservation in women Top

Surgical intervention

Fertility preservation in women of reproductive age is more complicated than that of in men. Surgical interventions such as ovariopexy or ovarian transposition may help to retain the reproductive function of women with cancer if radiotherapy is the only mean of treatment (Bisharah and Tulandi, 2003). [10] Attempts were made to cryopreserve whole ovary after laparoscopic ovariectomy (Jadoul et al., 2007). [11] Cryopreservation of ovarian cortex prior to cancer therapy and transplantation to the patient after the disease is cured are proven to be successful with live birth (Donnez et al., 2004). [12] Transplantation of cryopreserved ovarian cortex from patients with advanced stage breast cancer may be safe and may not reintroduce the disease as shown in mice models (Luyckx et al., 2013). [13]

Controlled ovarian hyperstimulation (COH)

COH with cryopreservation of oocytes or embryos has been endorsed as the most suitable way of fertility preservation in women with cancer (American Society for Reproductive Medicine, ASRM, Committee Opinion, 2013). [14] Cryopreservation by vitrification techniques yields high survival rates for oocytes and embryos. However, to achieve successful live birth through cryopreserving oocytes or embryos, at least eight oocytes are required for patients aged <38 and more than eight oocytes in patients aged >38 (Rienzi et al., 2012) [15] which could be obtained by COH. COH with gonadotropins has a potential risk in estrogen-sensitive cancers and also it is time-consuming, where patients with ovarian or uterine cancer may have very short time before cancer therapy. Using aromatase inhibitors such as Letrozole for ovarian stimulation to cryopreserve embryos has been most widely accepted for cancer patients (Lee et al., 2006; Oktay et al., 2010). [4],[16] Ovarian tissue cryopreservation followed by COH with agonist or antagonist to cryopreserve oocytes has been reported (Dolmans et al., 2014). [17] However, cryopreservation of embryos for fertility preservation requires the patients to have a male partner. In the absence of male partner, patient has to cryopreserve oocytes. COH also poses potential risks with elevated levels of estradiol in hormone-sensitive cancers (Oktay et al., 2010). [16]

Fertility preservation in patients with cancer of uterus or ovaries

COH is applicable mostly in patients with cancers of non-reproductive organs. When cancer occurs in reproductive organs such as uterus or ovaries, generally, total hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy is carried out. Hence, patients become totally infertile. As mentioned earlier, these patients are not recommended for COH due to shortage of time and potential risks of using gonadotropins for ovarian stimulation (Lobo et al., 2005). [18] Ovarian tissue cryopreservation may not be an option due to the risk of reintroducing multi-foci neo-carcinogenesis by transplantation of cryopreserved ovarian tissue (Cadron et al., 2007). [19] Ultrasound-guided collection of oocytes. From ovary for in vitro maturation (IVM) and cryopreservation also has a risk of spreading the disease at the time of puncture of follicles. Considering the above-mentioned risks, these patients are left with almost no options to preserve their fertility. Harvesting oocytes from surgically removed ovaries and either cryopreserving them or creating embryos after IVM and Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) for cryopreservation are the only options available to these patients. Cryopreservation of oocytes may be applicable to patients without male partners, whereas cryopreservation of embryos could be employed only in patients with male partners.

Collection of mature eggs at the time of oophorectomy has been attempted after COH followed by vitrification of these oocytes (Bocca et al., 2011; Fatemi et al., 2011). [20],[21] However, collection of immature oocytes followed by IVM may be a safer approach. Huang et al., (2007) [22] collected immature oocytes from ovary after oophorectomy and subjected them to IVM. These authors vitrified resulting mature oocytes for future use by the patient. Embryos have been created after warming such vitrified oocytes followed by ICSI (Fadini et al., 2012) [23] and resulting embryos transferred to uterus, in a patient with ovarian adenocarcinoma. Nonetheless, they did not result in pregnancy. Embryos have been created from fresh oocytes harvested from ovary [Figure 1] followed by oophorectomy after IVM and ICSI in patients with endometrial carcinoma (Revel et al., 2004) [24] and advanced ovarian cancer (Prasath et al., 2008; Prasath et al., 2014) [25],[26] as these patients had male partners at the time of oophorectomy. The embryos [Figure 2] were frozen as the patients had to undergo cancer therapy. Patients who underwent hysterectomy have to seek surrogacy (Revel et al., 2004; Prasath et al., 2008). [24],[25] Patients, without hysterectomy, may use frozen embryos after completing treatment and cleared of cancer. Our team has published the first report on pregnancy and live birth from frozen-thawed embryos obtained from fresh oocytes, harvested from surgically removed ovary, after IVM and ICSI in a patient with advanced ovarian cancer (Prasath et al., 2014) [Table 1]. [26]
Table 1: Comparison of reports on in vitro maturation (IVM) of oocytes obtained from ovary after oophorectomy in uterine and ovarian cancer patients

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Figure 1: Immature oocytes from patient's ovary (Prasath et al., 2008)[25]

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Figure 2: Four cell embryos from in vitro matured oocytes (Prasath et al., 2008)[25]

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  Conclusion Top

Options to preserve fertility for patients with cancer of reproductive organs, such as ovary or uterus, are limited to harvesting oocytes from surgically removed ovary, followed by either cryopreserving oocytes if no male partner is available, or cryopreserving embryos after IVM and ICSI of oocytes if male partner is available. Surrogacy is the only option to use frozen embryos for patients with hysterectomy. Ovarian cancer patients who kept their uterus may bear pregnancy using frozen-thawed embryos.

  References Top

Blatt J. Pregnancy outcome in long-term survivors of childhood cancer. Med Pediatr Oncol 1999;33:29-33.  Back to cited text no. 1
Howell S, Shalet S. Gonadal damage from chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am 1998;27:927-43.  Back to cited text no. 2
Byrne J, Fears TR, Gail MH, Pee D, Connelly RR, Austin DF, et al. Early menopause in long-term survivors of cancer during adolescence. Am J Obstet Gynecol 1992;166:788-93.  Back to cited text no. 3
Lee SJ, Schover LR, Partridge AH, Patrizio P, Wallace WH, Hagerty K, et al., American Society of Clinical Oncology. American Society of Clinical Oncology recommendations on fertility preservation in cancer patients. J Clin Oncol 2006;24:2917-31.  Back to cited text no. 4
Quinn GP, Vadaparampil ST, Lee J, Jacobsen PB, Bepler G, Lancaster J, et al. Physician referral for fertility preservation in oncology patients: A national study of practice behaviors. J Clin Oncol 2009;27:5952-7.  Back to cited text no. 5
Osterberg EC, Ramasamy R, Masson P, Brannigan RE. Current practices in fertility preservation in male cancer patients. Urol Ann 2014;6:13-7.  Back to cited text no. 6
[PUBMED]  Medknow Journal  
Stahl PJ, Stember DS, Mulhall JP. Options for fertility preservation in men and boys with cancer. Adv Exp Med Biol 2012;732:29-39.  Back to cited text no. 7
Schrader M, Müller M, Sofikitis N, Straub B, Krause H, Miller K. "Onco-tese": Testicular sperm extraction in azoospermic cancer patients before chemotherapy-new guidelines? Urology 2003;61:421-5.  Back to cited text no. 8
Stensvold E, Magelssen H, Oskam IC. Fertility-preserving measures for boys and young men with cancer. Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen 2011;131: 1433-5.  Back to cited text no. 9
Bisharah M, Tulandi T. Laparoscopic preservation of ovarian function: An underused procedure. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2003;188:367-70.  Back to cited text no. 10
Jadoul P, Donnez J, Dolmans MM, Squifflet J, Lengele B, Martinez-Madrid B. Laparoscopic ovariectomy for whole human ovary cryopreservation: Technical aspects. Fertil Steril 2007;87:971-5.  Back to cited text no. 11
Donnez J, Dolmans MM, Demylle D, Jadoul P, Pirard C, Squifflet J, et al. Livebirth after orthotopic transplantation of cryopreserved ovarian tissue. Lancet 2004;364:1405-10.  Back to cited text no. 12
Luyckx V, Durant JF, Camboni A, Gilliaux S, Amorim CA, Van Langendonckt A, et al. Is transplantation of cryopreserved ovarian tissue from patients with advanced-stage breast cancer safe? A pilot study. J Assist Reprod Genet 2013;30:1289-99.  Back to cited text no. 13
Ethics Committee of American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Fertility preservation and reproduction in patients facing gonadotoxic therapies: A committee opinion. Fertil Steril 2013;100:1224-31.  Back to cited text no. 14
Rienzi L, Cobo A, Paffoni A, Scarduelli C, Capalbo A, Vajta G, et al. Consistent and predictable delivery rates after oocyte vitrification: An observational longitudinal cohort multicentric study. Hum Reprod 2012;27:1606-12.  Back to cited text no. 15
Oktay K, Türkçüoğlu I, Rodriguez-Wallberg KA. GnRH agonist trigger for women with breast cancer undergoing fertility preservation by aromatase inhibitor/FSH stimulation. Reprod Biomed Online 2010;20:783-8.  Back to cited text no. 16
Dolmans MM, Marotta ML, Pirard C, Donnez J, Donnez O. Ovrain tissue cryopreservation followed by controlled ovarian stimulation and pick-up of mature oocytes does not impair the number or quality of retrieved oocytes. J Ovarian Res 2014;7:80.  Back to cited text no. 17
Lobo RA. Potential options for preservation of fertility in women. N Engl J Med 2005;353:64-73.  Back to cited text no. 18
Cadron I, Leunen K, Van Gorp T, Amant F, Neven P, Vergote I. Management of borderline ovarian neoplasms. J Clin Oncol 2007;25:2928-37.  Back to cited text no. 19
Bocca S, Dedmond D, Jones E, Stadtmauer L, Oehninger S. Successful extracorporeal mature oocyte harvesting after laparoscopic oophorectomy following controlled ovarian hyperstimulation for the purpose of fertility preservation in a patient with borderline ovarian tumor. J Assist Reprod Genet 2011;28:771-2.  Back to cited text no. 20
Fatemi HM, Kyrou D, Al-Azemi M, Stoop D, De Sutter P, Bourgain C, et al. Ex-vivo oocyte retrieval for fertility preservation. Fertil Steril 2011;95:1787.e15-7.  Back to cited text no. 21
Huang JY, Buckett WM, Gilbert L, Tan SL, Chian RC. Retrieval of immature oocytes followed by in vitro maturation and vitrification: A case report on a new strategy of fertility preservation in women with borderline ovarian malignancy. Gynecol Oncol 2007;105:542-4.  Back to cited text no. 22
Fadini R, Dal Canto M, Mignini Renzini M, Milani R, Fruscio R, Cantu MG, et al. Embryo transfer following in vitro maturation and cryopreservation of oocytes recovered from antral follicles during conservative surgery for ovarian cancer. J Assist Reprod Genet 2012;29:779-81.  Back to cited text no. 23
Revel A, Safran A, Benshushan A, Shushan A, Laufer N, Simon A. In vitro maturation and fertilization of oocytes from an intact ovary of a surgically treated patient with endometrial carcinoma: Case report. Hum Reprod 2004;19:1608-11.  Back to cited text no. 24
Prasath EB, Lim JW, Loh SF. Embryos obtained from in vitro matured oocytes retrieved from Cancerous ovary after Oophorectomy. COGI. Paris; 2008.  Back to cited text no. 25
Prasath, EB, Chan ML, Wong WH, Lim CJ, Tharmalingam MD, Hendricks M, et al. First pregnancy and live birth from cryopreserved embryos obtained from in vitro matured oocytes after oophorectomy in ovarian cancer patient. Hum Reprod 2014;29:276-8.  Back to cited text no. 26


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]

  [Table 1]


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