The country’s only comprehensive fertility preservation treatment programme for children and young people with cancer has been highly commended at the prestigious British Medical Journal (BMJ) Awards.

The Oxford Reproductive Tissue Cryopreservation (ORTC) service at Oxford Children’s Hospital is a collaboration between Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation and the University of Oxford, supported by Oxford Hospitals Charity. 

The ORTC team were announced as highly commended and runners-up in the Cancer Care Team category at the BMJ Awards ceremony in London on Thursday 10 May. 

There were 250 entries in the BMJ Awards’ 15 categories and so being shortlisted is a significant achievement and national recognition of high quality care for patients. 

Speaking after the awards ceremony, Consultant Paediatric Oncologist Dr Sheila Lane, clinical lead for the ORTC service, said: “I am really proud of all that our team have achieved. 

'To go from zero to a national programme that makes a major difference to the lives of so many children, young adults and their families in only five years, and to be recognised for our achievement with a BMJ Award highly commended is a testament to everyone’s hard work and commitment.' 

More than 80% of children and young adults diagnosed with cancer now survive the disease but infertility is a common and life-changing long-term complication of treatment. 

Every year in the UK approximately 4,000 children and young people under the age of 25 are newly diagnosed with cancer and 10-15% of them will be at high risk of infertility at a young age as a result of their treatment and so will never be able to have their own children. 

The ORTC programme, which saw its first patients in 2013, now cryopreserves (freezes) the reproductive tissue of more than 150 children and young people from all over the country every year – it is the only service of its kind in the UK. 

Charitable support by Oxford Hospitals Charity and a major donor has been key to its success. 

Speaking when the team were shortlisted for the BMJ Awards in March, the Charity’s Chief Executive, Dr Douglas Graham, said:

'By offering fertility preservation, patients and their families are given the hope of a positive future and are able to focus on life beyond cancer – and that is simply priceless. As a charity we are very proud to support this ground-breaking service.'

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Pictured: The Oxford Reproductive Tissue Cryopreservation (ORTC) team