Understanding and reducing risks in mothers who have survived cancer treatment

INSTITUTION: Academic Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, St Michael’s Hospital, University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, University of Bristol, Reproductive Medicine Unit and Children and Young Peoples’ Cancer service, University College London Hospitals, EGA Institute for Women’s Health, University College London, Institute of Applied Health Research, University of Birmingham.
RESEARCHERS: Dr Melanie Griffin, Dr Katherine Birchenall, Professor Anna David, Dr Melanie Davies, Dr Victoria Grandage, Dr Raoul Reulen, Professor Michael Hawkins

Evidence suggests that women who have had cancer treatment as a child or young adult are more likely to experience problems during pregnancy, including an increased risk or their babies being born prematurely.

In a project funded jointly by Borne and Action Medical Research, Dr. Melanie Griffin of University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust is looking at the long-term impact of cancer treatment involving bone marrow transplantation on women’s reproductive health. She hopes to identify new ways to improve care for these childhood cancer survivors before and during their pregnancy, reducing the chances of their babies being born too soon.

about the research

Thanks to improved survival and assisted fertility technologies like IVF, more women who had cancer treatment as a child or young adult are now able to have children. Unfortunately, evidence suggests that they are more likely to experience problems during pregnancy, including an increased risk of their babies being born prematurely.

With Borne and Action Medical Research funding, the team is working with the British Society of Blood and Marrow Transplantation Data Registry and the British Childhood Cancer Survivor Study/Teenage and Young Adult Cancer Survivor Study to find out how many women experience problems or premature birth and the best way to keep these pregnant women healthy and protect their unborn babies during pregnancy.

Dr Griffin and her team hope to identify new ways to improve care for these cancer survivors before and during their pregnancy, reducing the chances of their babies being born too soon.

“We will make recommendations for changes to national guidelines relating to the care for women who have a history of bone marrow transplant and who become pregnant or wish to become pregnant in the future.”

– Dr Melanie Griffin

UPDATES & IMPACT

The team is making good progress and the next step is to analyse the data, present, and publish the findings.

The funding that Action Medical Research and Borne have provided has enabled the team to perform research to establish whether women who received bone marrow transplant and/or total body irradiation as children or young adults are likely to have problems during their own pregnancies, specifically leading to preterm birth. The care offered during pregnancy for these women is likely to be highly variable across the country, which is likely to affect what happens to them and their pregnancies.

The research has allowed the team to answer many questions which these women may have, and for national recommendations to be produced to improve the care provision for all these women, including reducing their likelihood of having a baby born early. The findings so far will add to the information available so that women can make informed choices and their fertility and pregnancy care optimised.

Following the data analysis the team plan to meet with stakeholders, including the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, to present the findings and make suggestions for guidelines for improved care of these women and their unborn babies.

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