Female cancer patients find hope in fertility breakthrough

Oct 28, 2010 By Candace Gibson
Dr Kylie Dunning. Photo by Luke Simon.

University of Adelaide reproductive health researcher Dr. Kylie Dunning was last night named the 2010 Young Investigator Award winner for her work to help preserve the fertility of female cancer survivors.

Dr. Dunning, a postdoctoral researcher from the Robinson Institute and the Discipline of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Adelaide, examined the role of fat metabolism in the growth and development of in the laboratory.

"Major advances in medical research have led to improved cancer therapies and increased survival rates in patients, but the use of life-saving chemotherapy and often leads to infertility," Dr. Dunning says.

"In Australia, girls as young as 13 years old affected by cancer can have a portion of their ovaries cryopreserved for future use. What we've discovered may increase the chances of these women starting a family later in life.

"The latest technology for female fertility preservation involves growing ovarian tissue in a three-dimensional ball of gel in the lab, enabling eggs to grow and develop surrounded by their support cells, known collectively as the follicle."

This technology enables the growth of eggs in the laboratory that can then be fertilised and form embryos as in traditional IVF. In the future, these embryos could be returned to the womb to form a pregnancy and a healthy baby. By using this technology it avoids having to put back the cryopreserved ovarian tissue, which may contain .

Dr. Dunning says the use of 3-D follicle growth is extremely promising, however the growth of eggs capable of forming a healthy embryo and a baby requires further development.

"I've found that fats are a vital energy source for follicle and egg development. In fact, we've discovered that increasing the follicle and egg's utilisation of fat during 3-D follicle growth significantly improves subsequent ," Dr. Dunning says.

The Young Investigator Award, now in its 11th year, rewards scientific excellence in South Australia's young researchers and their ability to communicate and "sell" that science. The award final was held last night at The Sanctuary, at the Adelaide Zoo.

As winner, Dr. Dunning received The Hon Carolyn Pickles Award of $10,000. Prizes of $3000 each were awarded to the two runners up, Chantelle McIntyre and Zlatko Kopecki, who are both PhD candidates from the School of Paediatrics and Reproductive Health at the University of Adelaide.

Chantelle is investigating replacing defective genes to prevent brain deterioration in children with Sanfilippo Syndrome, a rare inherited disease where the body cannot metabolise sugar.

Zlatko is researching the role of a specific protein involved in genetic blister formation in fragile skin disorders, looking at reducing its levels to improve wound healing.

The award is an initiative of the Children, Youth and Women's Health Service and the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Adelaide.

Explore further: Experts call for higher exam pass marks to close performance gap between international and UK medical graduates

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Why immune cells count in early pregnancy

Oct 16, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- A University of Adelaide researcher has been named the 2009 Young Investigator Award winner for shedding new light on why some women are infertile, and why some pregnancies end in miscarriage.

New technique could save cancer patients' fertility

Jul 13, 2009

The tiny translucent egg nestled in the special laboratory gel was a mere 30 days old, but its four-week birthday caused researchers to quietly celebrate. This was the first time anyone had successfully grown a woman's immature ...

Platypus link to ovarian cancer

Jun 26, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers from the Royal Adelaide Hospital and University of Adelaide believe our oldest mammalian relative may help us to better understand ovarian cancer.

New treatment could double pregnancy rates

Apr 15, 2008

Pregnancy rates could be doubled for couples undertaking fertility treatment, thanks to a revolutionary project being trialled by the University of Adelaide.

Recommended for you

Obese British man in court fight for surgery

Jul 11, 2011

A British man weighing 22 stone (139 kilograms, 306 pounds) launched a court appeal Monday against a decision to refuse him state-funded obesity surgery because he is not fat enough.

2008 crisis spurred rise in suicides in Europe

Jul 08, 2011

The financial crisis that began to hit Europe in mid-2008 reversed a steady, years-long fall in suicides among people of working age, according to a letter published on Friday by The Lancet.

New food labels dished up to keep Europe healthy

Jul 06, 2011

A groundbreaking deal on compulsory new food labels Wednesday is set to give Europeans clear information on the nutritional and energy content of products, as well as country of origin.

Overweight men have poorer sperm count

Jul 04, 2011

Overweight or obese men, like their female counterparts, have a lower chance of becoming a parent, according to a comparison of sperm quality presented at a European fertility meeting Monday.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Cancer stem cells linked to drug resistance

Most drugs used to treat lung, breast and pancreatic cancers also promote drug-resistance and ultimately spur tumor growth. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have discovered ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.