At 21, Ayelet Rozenberg was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Facing aggressive therapies necessary to save her life, Ayelet feared she would never be able to conceive a child and turned to Prof. Meirow, Head of Sheba’s Fertility Preservation Center, for help.
When Ayelet was first diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2008, the malignancy was limited to her lymph nodes and doctors indicated that a light chemotherapy regimen, combined with radiotherapy, would be sufficient. Soon after, however, the cancer spread to her liver, and a more aggressive therapeutic approach was required.
Upon discovering that the treatment needed to save her life might prevent her from conceiving, Ayelet, who had already dreamt of becoming a mother despite being only 21, decided to do everything in her power to ensure this would not happen.
After exploring her options, Ayelet turned to Prof. Dror Meirow, Head of Sheba’s Fertility Preservation Center, who informed her the chances of success with the established procedure of egg freezing were very low. He then suggested an experimental treatment called ovarian tissue cryopreservation.
One of the first physicians to perform the procedure globally, Prof. Meirow was also involved in its development. As of 2008, he conducted it on only one patient, and Ayelet eventually decided to become the second.
Five tiny pieces, each only a few centimeters in size, were removed from Ayelet’s ovary and frozen. The following week, she began an intense chemotherapy regimen, which, happily, was successful, and achieved remission lasting to this very day.
It was only a year later that Ayelet met her future husband, and they soon decided to get married.
“After our relationship became serious, I started to worry about the possibility of problems with conceiving, but I was blessed with an amazing husband. He was optimistic, and said that there is no way we will not be parents.”
Ayelet returned to Prof. Meirow, who transplanted 3 of the 5 previously removed ovary tissue fragments via minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery. Several months passed, and following three cycles of IVF, Ayelet became pregnant with her first son. Not long after giving birth, she conceived once again, but this time naturally. A few years later, she also gave birth to a third son.
When Ayelet failed to conceive for the fourth time, she returned to Prof. Meirow, who suggested transplanting the remaining frozen ovarian tissue upon examining her hormonal activity. Not long after the procedure, Ayelet was able to conceive naturally. Thus, when her fourth son was born earlier this year, she became the first woman in the world to deliver four children following ovarian tissue cryopreservation.
As of today, Sheba has performed 750 ovarian tissue cryopreservation procedures, more than any other medical center worldwide. What was an experimental treatment back in 2008 has since become a global staple. As ovarian function returned in 95% of patients who underwent transplantation, and 50% of those managed to conceive, the success rate is “incredible,” says Prof. Meirow.
“To this day, I’m still awe-struck by how the ovaries return to function after the procedure,” he added.
“Truly, it is a miracle from God,” says Ayelet. “When I fell ill, I could never imagine having a family this big. You can’t begin to comprehend how difficult the idea of not being a mother is, but luckily, I’ve met wonderful doctors who acted as God’s messengers.”