Oncofertility in adult and pediatric populations: options and barriers

Joshua A. Halpern, Arighno Das, Cory A. Faw, Robert E. Brannigan


Cancer and its treatments can affect fertility in a variety of ways, and recent advances in cancer detection and treatment have led to an increasing number of cancer survivors for whom future fertility is a primary concern. Oncofertility is the study of interactions between cancer, anti-cancer therapy, fertility, and reproductive health. Fertility preservation aims to optimize fertility potential before initiation of gonadotoxic therapies. Sperm cryopreservation from an ejaculated sample is the gold standard for adults and post-pubertal adolescents, though added maneuvers such as medical therapy, penile vibratory stimulation, and electroejaculation can be employed when appropriate. When all these approaches fail, testicular sperm extraction can be used to obtain and cryopreserve testicular sperm from the azoospermic patient. Fertility preservation in the pre-pubertal pediatric patient is still experimental, but recent scientific breakthroughs with use of spermatogonial stem cells and testicular tissue transplantation offer great promise for the future. While there may be several practical, cultural, religious, and other barriers to fertility preservation, the establishment of a dedicated fertility preservation team can help to overcome these obstacles and optimize the utilization of fertility preservation in cancer patients of all ages.