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Cancer Fertility Breakthrough

For additional information on Woodruff's research visit

In tonight's Medical Watch. The fight to save their lives can leave young cancer survivors unable to create new life. Now local scientists say they may be able to help.

Gayle Meyer recalls, "I was just driving down the road and found a few lumps in my neck."

Gayle Meyer was just 23 when a diagnosis of hodgkins lymphoma took her down a new road. Her doctor could treat her disease, but with a grim side affect.

Gayle Meyer, "He said chances are I would probably go into post menopause."

Already enjoying motherhood with daughter caitlin, Gayle knew she wanted the chance to have more children.

Dr. Teresa Woodruff describes the risks of treatment, "Radiation to the pelvis will completely destroy the ovary, many chemotherapies that impact rapidly growing cells in fact damage the ovary pretty irreparably."

There are options. If possible, delay treatment and undergo hormone stimulation to acquire eggs for banking. or, have an entire ovary removed and stored for future use.

Dr. Teresa Woodruff, "You can take the ovary and once the woman survives the disease, you can transplant back pieces of that tissue and then there have been nine live healthy births from tissue transplant that have happened around the world."

But there's a catch.

Dr. Teresa Woodruff, "Or many cancer patients tissue transplant is not a good option because you might reintroduce the cancer that patient has just survived."

Now Northwestern University researcher Dr. Teresa Woodruff says she may have a third option.

Dr. Teresa Woodruff, "What we've done in the laboratory is to take that tissue and instead of transferring back the whole tissue into the woman, to isolate the individual follicles."

Follicles contain immature eggs that usually grow inside a woman's body.

Dr. Teresa Woodruff, "The real hurdle for everyone in our field was to be able to get those immature follicles to make the transition to grow."

Dr. Woodruff has overcome that hurdle with this.

"The blue dots are the bio-material."

It looks like jello, but this bio-material mirrors a follicle's natural structure. Unlike a flat petri dish, the substance provides a three-dimensional platform for a maturing egg. And allows important hormones found in the follicle to regulate the egg's growth, just as they would if left inside the body.

Dr. Teresa Woodruff, "Very similar to the follicle's environment within the ovary. This is a mature human egg that was isolated from one of the follicles that had been grown completely in-vitro.This egg started out about half that size. This is the first time we've been able to get that egg to mature completely from that immature stage all the way to a good healthy egg."

Instead of transplanting back ovary tissue, patients would have viable eggs ready for fertilization. When they are ready to start a family. Gayle gave her own tissue, banking on a future with more kids.

Gayle Meyer, "It's really exciting to have that kind of hope."

The process is still experimental and as yet non of the fertilized eggs grown in the lab have been implanted into a woman.But with the success they have seen so far scientists hope to begin human trials shortly. For more information go to our website

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