Ovarian transplant technique extends fertility in cancer patients

Many cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, can irreparably harm reproductive organs, leaving patients who hope to conceive a child after treatment with few options. Some can preserve their eggs or embryos, but those procedures are not available to everyone and not possible with certain cancers.

Kutluk Oktay, professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences and director of Yale’s Laboratory of Molecular Reproduction and Fertility Preservation, has been developing another option for those looking to preserve fertility. In 1999, he created the first ovarian transplant technique using cryopreserved tissue.

The procedure, known as ACOTT (autologous cryopreserved ovarian tissue transplantation), has continued to evolve. In a new study, published in Fertility and Sterility, Oktay and his research team report on improvements that can extend fertility and offer more flexibility for those who want to conceive children after cancer treatment.

The new method, called robot-assisted ACOTT, or RA-ACOTT, incorporates changes to the surgical procedure, a new way of handling the preserved ovarian tissue, and a pharmacological component. For the seven women who participated in the study, the improved approach led to at least four years of ovarian function on average, which is 14 to 18 months longer than was possible with the earlier technique. And at the time of publication, four of the women had attempted pregnancy, all of them successfully, resulting in six births.

In an interview with Yale News, Oktay discusses this new approach, what it means for people undergoing cancer treatment, and his plans for the method going forward. You can read it here.

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