Fertility breakthrough for cancer child

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A three-year-old girl with cancer has made medical history by becoming the youngest patient to have part of her ovary frozen to enable her to have children in adulthood.

Surgeons at St James's Hospital, Leeds, have removed half of Harriet Selka's left ovary and stored it at -200C in liquid nitrogen, so she will have a chance of having children later.

The cancer treatment that Harriet received - a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy - left her ovaries slightly damaged.

But doctors say the part of the ovaries that was removed in a 90-minute operation can be frozen for 20 years and may give her the chance to have children that she would otherwise have been denied.

Harriet is the youngest of several girl patients undergoing the pioneering research in Leeds and Manchester, and is the youngest ever to have part of her reproductive system frozen.

Grants of a quarter of a million pounds from the Leukaemia Research Fund and the Kay Kendall Leukaemia Fund to the research arm of the two Leeds hospitals' Assisted Conception Units have made the surgery possible.

Roger Gosden, Professor of Reproductive Biology at Leeds General Infirmary, who was in charge of Harriet, said: "Sometimes people say that reproductive technology is going too far and is on the edge of what is socially acceptable.

"I believe that what we're doing here will be socially acceptable to everyone because we're trying to restore the natural state.

Last night, her mother, Elizabeth Selka, said: "Harriet is only one month into the treatment and it is too early to say whether it's going to be a success. But if you have children of your own, you want them to know the joys of having children themselves."

Harriet, of Thurstonland, near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, who is suffering from Wilm's tumour, a type of kidney cancer, needs to undergo further surgery in the new year.

Doctors now hope that the pioneering treatment used on Harriet could be used to help young boys who would be also rendered sterile by cancer treatment.