Cancer patients who want to start a family in the future now have a new option. Montefiore's Institute for Reproductive Medicine & Health is the only site in the New York metropolitan area and one of approximately 25 sites across the country to offer a new treatment option to preserve fertility for female patients undergoing cancer treatment. Offered in collaboration with The Oncofertility Consortium at Northwestern University, this procedure, called ovarian tissue cryopreservation, removes one ovary and freezes the ovarian tissue before the woman begins undergoing chemotherapy. Approximately 20% of the tissue is used for research and 80% will be held for the patient for use when she is ready to have a baby.
"We are pleased to now offer this promising new option for cancer patients who may want to conceive at a future time," said Edward Illions, MD, who is the lead physician for the program.
This procedure, which is currently available for women of childbearing age from 18 to 42, is being offered as a possible choice for those who have to begin chemotherapy immediately because of the nature of their cancer diagnosis. It involves removing a section of ovarian tissue containing eggs, freezing them and then thawing them at a later date. Additional research will concentrate on techniques to isolate and grow immature follicles in the lab setting. Once matured, the eggs within these follicles can be fertilized to create embryos as in traditional in vitro fertilization (IVF). This procedure is a promising alternative to IVF, freezing embryos and freezing eggs—processes that require as much as 3 to 6 weeks to be effective.