Cancer treatments can be harmful to germ cells. As a result, the chances of a subsequent pregnancy in young cancer patients may be jeopardised. Fertility preservation has gained importance in recent years, to help those patients who wish to have children after the end of cancer treatment. This encompasses a number of techniques and interventions that are usually carried out before the start of cancer treatment and can increase the chances of having a child later. These techniques have already enabled many cancer patients to have children, but there is still room for improvement in efficiency.
BrusselsIVF, the fertility clinic at UZ Brussel, and VUB’s Follicular Biology Laboratory have developed specific expertise to elucidate the exact mechanisms of fertility loss in female cancer patients, working with research teams from UCL and ULB. A Consortium for Oncofertility Research was established several years ago; since 2018 it has been funded by an Excellence of Science (EOS) grant from the FWO-FNRS.
The advanced knowledge of ovarian biology generated by this research will also be applied to a broader base of infertile patients who would benefit from reliable improved technologies.
Professor Ellen Anckaert
In addition to her position as head of the Follicle Biology Laboratory at VUB, Ellen Anckaert is head of department in the Clinical Chemistry and Radioimmunology Department at UZ Brussel. She is part of the European Oocyte Biology Innovative Training Network, funded by the European Commission under the Marie Sklodowska Curie Actions programme. The network is led by experts with a background in reproductive biology, infertility and assisted reproduction.
Professor Michel De Vos
Michel De Vos is clinical professor at VUB and head of department of BrusselsIVF, the former Centre for Reproductive Medicine at UZ Brussel. As a clinical researcher, the focus of his work is on offering fertility preservation to patients with cancer, a field known as oncofertility. In this context, he works with Prof Ellen Anckaert.
VUB and cancer research
VUB is an Urban Engaged University that is firmly committed to the fight against cancer through scientific research. Scientists from various fields – medicine, bioengineering, pharmacy, physiotherapy, psychology – work together on an interdisciplinary basis. Fundamental and clinical scientific research into cancer go hand in hand, which is why the UZ Brussel, VUB’s university hospital, is an important partner in research, therapy and care. More awareness about cancer is needed for its prevention and cure, while more awareness about scientific research benefits the search for remedies and patient well-being. VUB is therefore grateful for an initiative such as World Cancer Day on 4 February.
The VUB Foundation helps to secure financial resources for research. With the VUB Yamina Krossa Fund, the VUB Foundation supports breast cancer research and the development of a potential cancer vaccine by Professor Damya Laoui and her team (VUB-VIB). The VUB-UZB Paul De Knop Fund is another initiative, established by the former VUB rector who was diagnosed with melanoma shortly after his mandate ended. During treatment by Prof Bart Neyns and his team at the UZ Brussel, Paul De Knop underwent immunotherapy, a promising immune system-based cell therapy. As a grateful patient, he set up the fund to help more people in need of treatment, quickly and more affordably.