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Unique childhood cancer service up for national award

20/03/2018
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The Oxford Reproductive Tissue Cryopreservation (ORTC) service, the UK's only comprehensive fertility preservation treatment programme for children and young people with cancer, has been shortlisted for the Cancer Care Team category of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) Awards 2018.

The service at Oxford Children's Hospital is a collaboration between Oxford University Hospitals and the University of Oxford, supported by Oxford Hospitals Charity.

Over 80 percent of children and young adults diagnosed with cancer now survive the disease, but infertility is a common long-term complication of treatment.

Around 4,000 people under the age of 25 are newly diagnosed with cancer in the UK each year, and 10-15 percent of them will be at high risk of infertility at a young age.

The service saw its first patients in 2013, and now cryopreserves (freezes) the reproductive tissue of more than 150 children and young people from all over the country every year.

The tissue can then be used to restore their fertility when they are ready to start a family later in life.

Psychology research undertaken as part of the ORTC programme has shown that being offered fertility preservation treatment reduced patients' anxiety and depression, both during and after their cancer treatment.

Consultant Paediatric Oncologist Dr Sheila Lane, clinical lead for the ORTC service, says: 

"At first all our patients had to come to Oxford, but in the last 12 months we have developed a 'hub and spoke' model, which means that children and young people can have tissue collected at a local hospital before it is transported to Oxford for processing and storage.

"Our service has had a very significant impact on childhood cancer care across the UK. In 2013, there was no fertility service for children and young adults about to start cancer treatment. Now all children and young adult cancer patients at risk of infertility have access to our specialist service. Our youngest patient was just six months old and the average age of our patients is 14."

Charitable support through Oxford Hospitals Charity and a major donor has allowed the ORTC service to grow.

Dr Douglas Graham, Chief Executive of Oxford Hospitals Charity, says:

"We are absolutely thrilled to hear that Dr Lane and the team are up for this very important award. The dedication and 'can do' attitude of all the teams involved in these innovations is so inspiring."

The full shortlist is at thebmjawards.bmj.com/shortlist-2018 and winners will be announced on 10 May 2018.

For more information about the service, please see:

Pictured: Oxford Reproductive Tissue Cryopreservation (ORTC) team

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