Evelina London treats first teenager for fertility preservation

Posted on Wednesday 10th August 2022

Sophia Millen

Evelina London has become the first children's hospital in London to successfully treat a teenage girl with ovarian tissue cryopreservation (OTC) surgery.

Sophia Millen, 14, was the first patient to undergo this type of surgery. In September 2021, she was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia, a form of blood cancer, and has since been receiving chemotherapy at The Royal Marsden.

Faster than other fertility preservation methods, OTC benefits teenagers and women who are too unwell to wait and have standard egg collection – which takes two to three weeks. OTC minimises the delay before cancer therapy can start.

Teams from across children’s surgical services and the fertility preservation service at Guy’s and St Thomas’ worked closely with her clinical team at The Royal Marsden, to arrange surgery before Sophia had a stem cell transplant in May.

Sophia’s mum, Angela, said: “It has been a huge relief for us that Sophia was able to have this surgery before her transplant, as it offers her the chance to have a family when she’s older. It has been one less thing to worry about while she is undergoing treatment for her cancer. The past eight months have been a whirlwind for us all – Sophia’s cancer was detected on a routine eye test – and she’s been receiving treatment since under the world expert care of The Royal Marsden.

“As the procedure was done via keyhole surgery, it meant that once Sophia was ready, we could bring her home on the same day so she could recover before having her transplant. The teams at The Royal Marsden and Evelina London have been great, really caring and supportive, and we’re so pleased they could come together to make this surgery a possibility for Sophia.”

""Pankaj Mishra, consultant paediatric urologist, said: “This was a huge team effort starting with the collaboration between our Trust and The Royal Marsden, to make this treatment as seamless as possible for Sophia and her family.

“Around 40 members of our staff were involved in the operation. We brought together teams from across our children’s hospital and women’s services at Guy’s Hospital, including specialist haematologists, anaesthetists, nurses and doctors. We were pleased to make this happen safely and quickly, in time for Sophia to receive her stem cell transplant at The Royal Marsden.”

Maxine Semple, the lead of the OTC service team said: “We are extremely proud that we have expanded our OTC service to care for teenagers young women going through cancer treatments. Our team have worked tirelessly to ensure that we are providing a service that is changing the face of fertility preservation globally.”

Ovarian tissue is collected through standard keyhole surgery, before a young woman starts cancer treatments like chemotherapy. When she is ready to start a family, the tissue can be re-implanted through follow-up surgery.

OTC also offers women the chance to restore their natural menstrual cycle and function, even if early menopause occurs, as well as the possibility to conceive naturally.

In 2021, Guy’s and St Thomas’ became one of the first in the UK to offer all possible methods currently available for fertility preservation - such as ovarian tissue freezing as well as standard egg and embryo freezing. This new service comes thanks to the supporters of Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Guy's and St Thomas' Biomedical Research Centre.

The fertility preservation service at Guy’s and St Thomas’ is one of the biggest and oldest in the world.

Evelina London Children’s Hospital provides over 30 specialist services to children and young people across south London and south east England.