Cancer Survivor Gives Birth After Using Lab-Matured Eggs, Considered A ‘Scientific Breakthrough’

Newborn child being placed in a bed.
Christian Bowen / Unsplash

A 34-year-old cancer survivor gave birth to a healthy baby boy despite becoming infertile due to chemotherapy treatments, reported CNN. The French woman became pregnant after her eggs were frozen, thawed, and matured in a lab environment, creating an embryo that was then implanted into her uterus.

The procedure, called in vitro maturation (IVM), and its use on the young cancer survivor were published in the journal Annals of Oncology on Tuesday. Doctors typically have few options to preserve fertility when young cancer patients go through chemotherapy and radiation treatments. They can either perform a procedure to remove tissue from one of the ovaries that contains immature eggs or remove the immature eggs directly and freeze them for use at a later date.

The woman, who was not named in the paper, decided not to undergo the ovarian tissue removal as she felt it was too invasive. Instead, she opted for IVM. The eggs extracted from her ovaries were frozen in liquid nitrogen for five years before she decided to try to get pregnant.

The woman first attempted to get pregnant naturally for a year before finally accepting that she was infertile. Although doctors could have performed another procedure to stimulate the ovaries into producing eggs again, the intervention carries the risk of causing the cancer to recur.

At the direction of the woman, doctors thawed her frozen eggs, injected them with sperm to fertilize them, and then grew them to maturity in the lab. The early-stage embryos were then transferred to her uterus. After becoming pregnant and delivering her healthy baby boy last year, she was hailed as a world first.

Ric Ross holds a dish with human embryos at the La Jolla IVF Clinic February 28, 2007 in La Jolla, California.
  Sandy Huffaker / Getty Images

Michael Grynberg, head of the fertility preservation department at Antoine Beclere University Hospital, expressed his excitement in a news release.

“We were delighted that the patient became pregnant without any difficulty and successfully delivered a healthy baby at term. This success represents a breakthrough in the field of fertility preservation.”

The French woman is the first to have successfully undergone the procedure of freezing her eggs and having them matured in a lab. Before her, doctors had been able to extract eggs from a woman, then immediately fertilize them and transfer them back to the woman’s uterus. However, up to this point, science had shown little evidence that eggs can be frozen, thawed, and matured in a lab before transferred into the uterus to develop.

One previous study had attempted to remove immature eggs and mature them in a lab, but failed after discovering that the eggs showed signs of abnormalities. The successful procedure in the French woman marks a step forward in fertilization research.