A Tokyo fertility clinic said Wednesday it will open the nation’s first ovary bank next month to help cancer patients conceive by removing and freezing their ovarian tissues before treatment.
Ladies Clinic Kyono said it has enlisted a range of medical facilities that treat cancer patients to set up an ovarian tissue preservation network.
Radiation treatment and chemotherapy often results in infertility, and removal and replacement of a young woman’s ovaries is often the only hope for her to conceive.
Tissue removal will be conducted at facilities where cancer patients are treated. The fertility clinic is one of four facilities that will receive the ovaries and freeze them until the patients are ready to receive them back as transplants, clinic director Koichi Kyono said.
Kyono told a news conference the aim is to offer patients a choice by “preserving their fertility” for the future.
The success rate of such procedures is not high. Data released in 2015 from four fertility facilities in Europe showed only one in four cases of transplanted frozen ovarian tissue resulted in conception and birth.
As of Wednesday, the project had 13 medical facilities on board, including St. Luke’s International Hospital in Tokyo and Hyogo College of Medicine Hospital.
The program will be only available for cancer patients who are aged 37 or less at the time of removal, and given the increasing risks of conceiving later in life, the ovaries should be reinserted before the woman turns 45, Kyono said.
He underscored that women will not be able to ask for preserved ovarian tissue from another donor other than themselves.
The cost of freezing and preserving ovarian tissue for the first year will probably be around ¥100,000, he said.
Regulators have already given the project tentative approval, according to Kyono. The clinic has secured the assent of the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology’s ethical committee and will file an application to the JSOG for formal approval to open the tissue bank by the end of May.
The JSOG allows the freezing of ovarian tissue for cancer patients. Nationwide, 15 medical facilities have registered as venues for the freezing of ovarian tissue, according to the Japan Society for Fertility Preservation.
But so far, only five or six of the 15 facilities have actually done so, Kyono said.