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Dr Efthimia Karra, consultant endocrinologist at The Physicians’ Clinic talks about ProFam, the 30 minute procedure that can preserve fertility and delay menopause up to 20 years

November 21, 2019

Fertility can now be preserved and menopause delayed for up to 20 years by a 30 minute novel procedure called ProFam.


What is ProFam?

ProFam is a 30 min procedure undertaken for the preservation of ovarian tissue. During the ProFam procedure a small amount of tissue from one of the ovaries is removed. The removed ovarian tissue is then preserved by freezing. The stored frozen tissue can be used at a later stage for fertility purposes or for halting the process of menopause and the associated menopausal symptoms of hot flushes, night sweats, memory problems, mood swings, anxiety and reduced sex drive.

Once needed, the preserved ovarian tissue is thawed and grafted (transferred) back in to the body either for availability of eggs in women seeking fertility or for natural hormone production in menopausal women.

The stored tissue when grafted to the body can combat the symptoms of menopause and provide natural HRT cover. Unlike HRT regimens, the preserved tissue when transferred back to the body, can deliver the body's own hormones and in the daily, rhythmic manner that naturally occurs in the body. Most women gain full female hormone (oestrogen) production within 4-6 months post-tissue grafting. Thus, ProFam may enable patients to remain premenopausal for up to 20 extra years using the body's own naturally occurring hormones.


What does the ProFam procedure entail?

The ProFam procedure entails removal of a small tissue portion from one of the ovaries. The tissue is then processed in a specialised manner in a specialist high-tech facility at the Advanced Tissue Therapy unit of the University of Birmingham to make tiny strips of tissue comprising only a few millimetres. These tissue strips are preserved by freezing (cryopreservation process).

The strips can be thawed and transferred back to the body at a later stage for fertility purposes or hormone replacement purposes in menopausal/perimenopause women.

The procedure lasts for 30 min. The procedure costs from £6000 for patients having exclusive ProFam surgery. The cost is less (from £2890) for patients having surgery for another cause, where the opportunity is taken to also store ovarian tissue during surgery using the ProFam procedure.


How has ProFarm been developed?

ProFaM is a collaboration between industry, the NHS, the University of Birmingham and is licensed by the UK's Human Tissue Authority (HTA).

ProFaM has been developed by experts in fertility, ovarian cryobiology and laparoscopy and in partnership with the University of Birmingham.

The Birmingham Women's and Children's NHS Foundation Trust is working with ProFaM to offer storage of ovarian tissue storage for children with cancer, before the receipt of cancer therapy ~(chemotherapy, irradiation) that can result in permanent ovarian damage and irreversible loss of fertility.

 

Is the ProFam suitable for all women?

Patients suitable for ProFam must be ideally less than 40 years old. However, the circumstances of each patient are carefully considered in an individualised approach.

ProFam is not suitable for women who are already menopausal or are close to reaching the menopausal state. This is because the ovaries cease to function close to menopause and thus, women in menopausal/perimenopausal states do not have functioning ovarian tissues for storage.


What should I do if I am interested in the ProFam?

ProFam is now commercially available. If you are interested in the procedure, please discuss with an Endocrinologist with expertise in the management of menopause whether the procedure may be suitable for you.

Dr Karra is a Consultant in Endocrinology and Diabetes at The Physicians' Clinic, Princess Grace Hospital, The Harley Street Clinic and Royal Free Hospital.

More information on Dr Karra's expertise can be found here: https://thephysiciansclinic.co.uk/physicians/dr-efthimia-karra

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