Background: Women of reproductive age diagnosed with cancer are often interested in preserving gametes or reproductive tissue that would allow for future genetic parenthood. Preservation of fertility is often accomplished in young cancer patients via ovarian stimulation followed by oocyte or embryo cryopreservation. Conventional stimulation protocols, however, require 2-4 weeks to complete ovarian stimulation, oocyte retrieval and possible fertilization. Such a strategy may not be feasible in patients requiring urgent cancer treatment. Recent studies have highlighted that random start ovarian stimulation can be initiated irrespective of the phase of the menstrual cycle and is an attractive alternative to conventional ovarian stimulation. The primary aim of the current review is to discuss the feasibility and success of random start ovarian stimulation for oocyte or embryo cryopreservation in women desiring fertility preservation prior to gonadotoxic cancer therapy.
Method: We performed a systematic review of medical literature published between January 2000 to June 2017 reporting the utility of random start ovarian stimulation for fertility preservation. Search terms included “fertility preservation,” “cancer,” “ovarian stimulation,” “random-start ovarian stimulation,” “embryo cryopreservation, and” “oocyte cryopreservation.” Publications were included in this review only if patients underwent random start ovarian stimulation prior to cancer therapy.
Results: Nineteen publications were identified and perused by the authors. Most publications described the utility of random start ovarian stimulation in the setting of breast cancer. Radom-start stimulation was associated with a reduced time interval between ovarian stimulation initiation and oocyte or embryo cryopreservation. The yield of mature oocytes and their developmental potential into embryos was comparable between conventional and random-start protocols, albeit with higher gonadotropin doses in the latter.
Conclusion: The current review suggests that random start ovarian stimulation can shorten the interval between ovarian stimulation and oocyte retrieval, with the yield of oocytes and embryos being comparable to conventional stimulation protocols. Thus, random start ovarian stimulation may serve as a better option for fertility preservation in patients requiring urgent cancer treatment.