Guy's and St Thomas' launches ovarian tissue cryopreservation service

Friday 28 January 2022

Lab staff microscope

A new fertility preservation service for ovarian tissue has been launched at Guy’s and St Thomas’ for women undergoing cancer treatment.

One of the first in the UK, the comprehensive service offers patients all possible methods currently available for fertility preservation such as ovarian tissue freezing as well as standard egg and embryo freezing.

Ovarian tissue cryopreservation (OTC) is a new addition to one of the biggest and oldest fertility preservation services in the world.

It offers women of a reproductive age undergoing chemotherapy or stem cell transplants the chance to preserve their fertility.

This new service comes thanks to the supporters of Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Guy's and St Thomas' Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) – with King’s College London’s Professor Dusko Ilic leading its implementation and the BRC helping to fund the service.

OTC is performed after ovarian tissue is collected by simple keyhole surgery, before a patient starts chemotherapy. When the patient is ready to start a family, the tissue can be re-implanted.

Faster than other fertility preservation methods, OTC benefits women who are too unwell to wait and have standard egg collection – which takes two to three weeks. It minimises the delay before cancer therapy can start.

OTC also offers women the chance to restore their natural menstrual cycle and function, even if early menopause occurs, as well as the possibility to conceive naturally. 

Dr Julia Kopeika, lead for the fertility preservation service at Guy’s and St Thomas’, said: “We’re so pleased to now be offering ovarian tissue cryopreservation as part of our well established fertility preservation service. This cutting-edge technology will allow us to help protect the fertility of more of our women undergoing cancer and stem cell treatments.

“The Cancer Centre at Guy’s is one of the UK’s leading centres and so we can treat really complex cases, as well as taking patients from other hospitals. Often these women are too unwell to travel for fertility treatment, so it is great we can now offer a comprehensive service with our dedicated team including specialist nurses and councillors to help guide patients through the process.”

Maxine Semple, the lead of the OTC service team said: “We are extremely proud of the ground we have covered in such a short period of time. Our team have worked tirelessly to ensure that we are providing a service that is changing the face of fertility preservation globally.” 

The service has also recently expanded to offer young women aged 14 and over who are going through chemotherapy treatments the chance to preserve their fertility and freeze their ovaries at Evelina London Children’s Hospital.

Around 150 babies have been born after ovarian tissue cryopreservation worldwide.

Last updated: March 2022

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