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Danish woman gives birth to second child after ovarian transplant

February 24, 2010 |  9:24 am

A Danish woman who had part of her ovaries removed and frozen while she was undergoing cancer treatment has now given birth to two children in separate pregnancies after the tissue was re-implanted, researchers reported Wednesday. The results mark nine such successful pregnancies following ovarian preservation and transplantation and give hope to young women with cancer who want to regain their reproductive capacity. Many forms of chemotherapy kill a woman's eggs, so removing them from the body during treatment now offers a successful alternative.

Stinne Holm Bergholdt was 27 when she was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma in 2004. Ewing's is a rare form of cancer in which tumors are found in bone and soft tissue, primarily in the pelvis. Her left ovary had already been removed surgically because of a cyst, so Dr. Claus Yding Anderson of the University Hospital of Copenhagen removed several strips of ovarian tissue containing eggs and froze them in liquid nitrogen. Following six courses of chemotherapy, surgery to remove residual tumors, and another three courses of chemo, Bergholdt was apparently cured, but she became menopausal -- she suffered hot flashes and her menstrual bleeding stopped.

Anderson and his colleagues, including Bergholdt, reported in the journal Human Reproduction that six strips of tissue were re-implanted in December 2005. Following mild ovarian stimulation, Bergholdt delivered a healthy girl in February 2007. She returned to the fertility clinic in January 2008 for a second treatment to initiate another pregnancy, but tests confirmed that she had become pregnant without intervention. She delivered a second healthy girl in September 2008. That showed that the transplanted tissue had functioned successfully for four years, Anderson said.

Almost all of the nine pregnancies resulting from such transplantation have occurred in Europe, three of them among Anderson's patients. Experts attributed the success with Bergholdt, in part, to her young age, which meant she had plenty of eggs left to be removed and stored. It is not clear how well the procedure would work with older patients.

-- Thomas H. Maugh II

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