Objectives: Despite new treatment options, some patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) need to be treated with the cytotoxic agent cyclophosphamide (CYC). Unlike malignant disease, there are no recommendations for ovarian protection in SLE. The clinical experience of the FertiPROTEKT network as well as recommendations after literature review will be presented in this paper.
Methods: Retrospective analyses of counselling and treatment data from the FertiPROTEKT register with special respect to SLE patients under 40 years prior to planned CYC treatment.
Results: A total of 2836 patients were advised prior to cytotoxic treatment in one of the FertiPROTEKT centres during January 2007 to November 2011. Of those, 68 patients (mean age 25 +/- 6.07 years) were counselled for severe SLE. Only five women did not make use of a fertility preservation method. Sixty-three patients (92.6%) decided in favour of a fertility preservation method. The largest proportion (91.2%) opted for treatment with a GnRH analogue. Ovarian tissue removal for cryoconservation was performed in 16 patients (25%). Stimulation therapy for cryoconservation of fertilized egg cells was performed in three patients (4.4%).
Conclusions: When counselling patients with SLE for fertility preservation one has to be aware of the disease-specific risks. According to the literature, a safe and effective option in SLE up to now has been the use of a GnRH analogue. Cryoconservation of ovarian tissue must still be seen as an experimental treatment, but as data on removal, cryoconservation, retransplantation and pregnancies are steadily rising, this presents a promising option for young SLE patients. Cryoconservation of oocytes must be very critically evaluated due to the need for a stimulation therapy and should only be performed after particular consideration of the individual risks.