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Enhanced Robotic Fertility Preservation Technique Improves Fertility Chances for Cancer Survivors

Valhalla, NY – Women who may be at risk for losing their fertility due to cancer treatments are now able to conceive with their own frozen ovarian tissue and carry a baby to term with greater success using a newly-enhanced, robot-assisted surgical ovarian transplantation technique, according to a study released today in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. Short-titled Improving Ovarian Transplantation Success, the study spanned 14 years and represents the outcomes of ovarian cryopreservation and transplantation research in two tri-state area patients.

Led by Kutluk Oktay, M.D., Ph.D., who is a professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology of the School of Medicine at New York Medical College (NYMC) and a world-renown infertility specialist who developed the first ovarian transplantation procedures, the study is the first-ever published report of a live birth and pregnancies derived from the multipronged technique, which combines auto transplantation of frozen-thawed ovarian tissue with robot-assisted surgery and the utility of AlloDerm, a decellularized human extracellular tissue matrix (ECTM) generated from cadaver skin.

“Ovarian tissue cryopreservation is evolving as an effective fertility preservation approach,” said Dr. Oktay. “While the quest for improving ovarian transplant techniques and outcomes is continuing, this study shows a marked improvement in achieving robust and reproducible results, giving new hope to many families struggling with cancer-treatment induced infertility.”

“Dr. Oktay’s work underscores the importance of pursuing research in developing medical specialties, like fertility preservation,” said D. Douglas Miller, M.D., C.M., M.B.A., dean of the School of Medicine. “New York Medical College is proud to be a leader in medical research, education and progress, which has once again been demonstrated by the breakthrough live birth and pregnancies recorded in this study.”

Patients Lauren Heuchling and Rosaria Usini Ruttenber, who had been diagnosed with a blood disorder and Hodgkin’s Lymphoma respectively, underwent ovarian tissue cryopreservation by Dr. Oktay at the age of 23 to preserve their fertility prior to receiving chemotherapy in preparation for hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.

Having been cured of their conditions, both patients underwent a robotically-assisted procedure, which was developed and performed by Dr. Oktay and his team of specialists, at seven years (Ms. Heuchling) and 12 years (Ms. Usini Ruttenber) after their ovarian tissues had been frozen. Although both patients became menopausal shortly after the completion of cancer treatments, the transplants reversed menopause within the three months after the Alloderm grafting. Both patients had subsequently conceived with in vitro fertilization. Ms. Usini Ruttenber has already delivered a healthy girl, who is now 4-months-old, and Ms. Heuchling, is presently 23 weeks pregnant.

Both patients have numerous frozen embryos generated from the transplanted frozen-thawed ovarian tissue, which they may use for future pregnancy attempts. Dr. Oktay and his team of researchers plan to assess the technique’s success in larger trials, which are approved by the New York Medical College Institutional Review Board.

"I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to be a part of Dr. Oktay’s amazing, groundbreaking procedure,” said Lauren Heuchling. “Ovarian tissue cryopreservation and transplantation was my only option after being diagnosed with a rare blood disease at a very young age. I am so grateful to Dr. Oktay for always being positive and giving me hope that one day I would be able to have a biological child of my own. It may have been a long journey, but I have him to thank for this miracle and for making my dreams come true." "At the age of 23, after learning that my cancer was back, I was told that I would have to undergo a stem cell transplant, which would most likely leave me infertile,” said Rosaria Usini Ruttenber. “Coming from a large Italian family where family is everything, I was devastated by the news that I may not be able to have children, something I so desperately wanted. However, thanks to Dr. Oktay, my hope was restored, and now my husband and I have a beautiful, healthy baby girl. Giuliana Hope Ruttenber is truly a miracle, and seeing her smile everyday makes it all worth it!"

To access the full study, please click here:

Dr. Oktay

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