A possible link between IVF and eye cancer?

January 23, 2003

An observational study by Dutch authors in this week's issue of THE LANCET suggests that children conceived by in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) could be at an increased risk of retinoblastoma (a malignant tumour of the retina). However the investigators and authors of an accompanying Commentary stress that it is too early to conclude that there is a true association between IVF and retinoblastoma until larger studies can confirm these preliminary findings.

Retinoblastoma is rare, occurring in around one in 17,000 births in the Netherlands and other western countries. Previous research has not identified an increased cancer risk among IVF children; however Dutch investigators led by Annette Moll from VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, diagnosed retinoblastoma in five children within 15 months of each other. This prompted the investigators to compare the incidence of retinoblastoma among the 1-1.5% of the Dutch population born after IVF with retinoblastoma incidence in the general Dutch population.

The investigators calculate that children conceived by IVF could be between five and seven times more likely than non-IVF children to develop childhood retinoblastoma, assuming that IVF accounts for 1 to 1.5% of all conceptions in the Netherlands. The retinoblastomas were treated successfully in all five children who have since remained free of the disease.

Annette Moll comments: "Whether treatment with ovulation-inducing drugs increases the risk of childhood cancer is an important matter, especially with the rising numbers of women undergoing treatment for subfertility. Future investigators should consider the number of IVF treatments, other fertility drugs given before IVF, and the possibility that serious disorders in children conceived by IVF are diagnosed earlier than those in other children who do not have such close medical surveillance. Our finding requires further research to confirm the association and to explore a possible causal mechanism."

An accompanying Commentary (p 273) by David BenEzra from Hadassah Hebrew University Hospital, Jerusalem, Israel is cautious about the Dutch findings. He states: "Whatever the "true" incidence of retinoblastoma is after IVF, there is little doubt that a heightened awareness and a multidisciplinary approach with a closer follow-up of children conceived with assisted reproductive technologies is needed...An open debate on this issue is necessary to frame it in its proper context and to minimise potential harmful effects of unfounded and potentially misleading information."

Contact: Dr Annette C Moll, VU University Medical Center, Department of Ophthamology, De Boelelaan 1117, 1081 HV Amsterdam, Netherlands;
T) (Mariet Budding, Department of communications) +31 20 444 3444;
F) +31 20 444 4745;
E) a.moll@vumc.nl

Professor David BenEzra, Paediatric Ophthalmology Unit, Hadassah Hebrew University, Hospital, Jerusalem, Israel;
E) benezra@md2.huji.ac.il


Related Retinoblastoma Articles from Brightsurf:

Therapy using immune system cells preserves vision in mice implanted with rare eye cancer
A treatment that uses immune system T cells, combined with an immune-boosting drug packaged in an injectable gel, was found to preserve the vision of mice implanted with retinoblastoma tissue.

Eye on research: A new way to detect and study retinoblastoma
Dr. Jesse Berry of Children's Hospital Los Angeles advances the field of retinoblastoma research through her discovery and use of aqueous humor biopsy.

Prototype smartphone app can help parents detect early signs of eye disorders in children
A Baylor University researcher's prototype smartphone app -- designed to help parents detect early signs of various eye diseases in their children such as retinoblastoma, an aggressive pediatric eye cancer -- has passed its first big test.

Cancer genes and the tumor milieu
In a recent study published in Cancer Research, researchers demonstrate the role of an oncogene in altering the immediate environment of tumors.

Virus-based therapy targets a pediatric eye cancer
A cancer-killing, virus-based therapy showed promising effects against retinoblastoma -- a tumor of the retina that affects mainly children -- in mouse models and a pilot clinical trial.

Single cell sequencing sheds light on why cancers form in specific cell types
Researchers build, then use single cell sequencer to identify and characterize a subpopulation of cells in the eye where cancer originates.

Spread of deadly eye cancer halted in cells and animals
By comparing genetic sequences in the eye tumors of children whose cancers spread with tumors that didn't spread, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers report new evidence that a domino effect in cells is responsible for the cancer spreading.

CHLA team identifies developmental stage for no. 1 eye tumor in children
Investigators at Children's Hospital Los Angeles have been able to pinpoint the exact stage of development of the human retina, when cells can grow out of control and form cancer-like masses.

Genetic testing recommended for children considered at risk for most common eye cancer
Children who are considered to be at risk of developing eye cancer should receive genetic counseling and testing as soon as possible to clarify risk for the disease.

A liquid biopsy for retinoblastoma
A recent study by a team of investigators at Children's Hospital Los Angeles and Keck Medicine of USC, provides proof of concept for a safe and effective way to derive genetic information from a retinoblastoma tumor.

Read More: Retinoblastoma News and Retinoblastoma Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.