Ovarian stimulation for fertility preservation in women with cancer: A systematic review and meta-analysis comparing random and conventional starts

Vinita M. Alexander*, Caitlin E. Martin, Allison P. Schelble, Alexandra B. Laufer, Angela Hardi, Laurie J. McKenzie, Heather S. Hipp, Jennifer F. Kawwass, Jessica B. Spencer, Emily S. Jungheim

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Objective: In female cancer patients anticipating chemotherapy or radiation, oocyte retrieval for fertility should be performed as efficiently as possible to avoid postponing cancer treatments. Our objective was to compare clinical outcomes among female cancer patients who underwent a conventional early follicular phase-start ovarian stimulation cycle and those who underwent a random-start ovarian stimulation cycle. Evidence review: A systematic review of the literature was performed in accordance with PRISMA guidelines. Medline, Embase.com, Scopus, Cochrane Library, and Clinicaltrials.gov databases were searched to identify all original research published in English through July 2020 on the topic of female cancer patients undergoing ovarian stimulation with a random or conventional start. Studies lacking a comparison group or including women who had already undergone chemotherapy at the time of ovarian stimulation were excluded. The primary author assessed all identified article titles and abstracts, and two independent reviewers assessed full-text articles and extracted data. A meta-analysis with a random-effects model was used to calculate weighted mean differences (WMDs) for outcomes of interest. The primary outcome was the number of mature (meiosis II) oocytes retrieved. Secondary outcomes included duration of stimulation, total dose of gonadotropins, total number of oocytes retrieved, fertilization rate, and number of embryos or zygotes cryopreserved. Results: A total of 446 articles were screened, and 9 full-text articles (all retrospective cohort or prospective observational) were included for review. Additionally, pooled primary retrospective data from two institutions were included. In total, data from 10 studies including 1653 women were reviewed. Five studies reported the number of embryos cryopreserved, and four reported fertilization rates. Random-start cycles were slightly longer (WMD 0.57 days, 95 % confidence interval [CI] 0.0–1.14 days) and used more total gonadotropins (WMD 248.8 international units, 95 % CI 57.24–440.40) than conventional-start cycles. However, there were no differences in number of mature oocytes retrieved (WMD 0.41 oocytes, 95 % CI −0.84–1.66), number of total oocytes retrieved (WMD 0.90 oocytes, 95 % CI −0.21–2.02), fertilization rates (WMD −0.12, 95 % CI −1.22–0.98), or number of embryos cryopreserved (WMD 0.12 embryos, 95 %CI −0.98–1.22) between random-start and conventional-start cycles. All outcomes except for the parameter “total oocytes retrieved” yielded an I2 of over 50 %, indicating substantial heterogeneity between studies. Conclusion(s): Although random-start cycles may entail a longer duration of stimulation and use more total gonadotropins than conventional-start cycles, the absolute differences are small and likely do not significantly affect treatment costs. The similar numbers of mature oocytes retrieved, fertilization rates, and number of embryos cryopreserved in the two start-types suggest that they do not differ in any clinically important ways. Given that random-start cycles can be initiated quickly, they may help facilitate fertility preservation for cancer patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102080
JournalJournal of Gynecology Obstetrics and Human Reproduction
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Cancer
  • Conventional
  • Ovarian stimulation
  • Random

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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