Current options for fertility preservation may be unsafe for women with leukemia, according to a study published in Blood (2010 Jul 1. [Epub ahead of print]).

The study, led by Marie-Madeleine Dolmans, MD, professor at the Université Catholique de Louvain in Brussels, focused on the use of ovarian tissue cryopreservation in patients with leukemia. Included in the study were 18 patients who were between ages 2 and 31 years when their ovarian tissue was cryopreserved. Researchers examined the implications of the technique in 12 women with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and six women with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML).

With the use of a technique called real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR), researchers found cancerous cells in the ovarian tissue of 70% of the ALL patients and 33% of the CML patients.

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Through the use of RT-qPCR and a mouse model, researchers were also able to demonstrate the viability and malignant potential of leukemic cells present in the frozen ovarian tissue, especially in ALL patients. Further analysis, involving engrafting the ovarian tissue samples into 18 healthy mice for 6 months, revealed that in mice that received tissue from CML patients, the grafts looked normal and did not appear to contain any cancerous cells. However, four of the mice who received ovarian tissue from ALL patients developed tumors.

“Leukemia patients can benefit from fertility preservation techniques,” said Brandon Hayes-Lattin, MD, the director of the Adolescent and Young Adult Center at the Knight Cancer Institute in Portland, Oregon. “But the strategies offered must be both effective and safe. Among its other strengths, this work emphasizes that molecular methods can be successfully applied to assessments of safety.”