Survey: Inadequate fertility response for male adolescent cancer patients

May 21, 2008

Pediatric oncologists appear strongly motivated to preserve fertility in male adolescent cancer patients, although there remains a disconnect between their attitudes and practices with respect to referring patients for available services, according to results of the Survey for Preservation of Adolescent REproduction (SPARE) study.

Pediatric oncologists appear strongly motivated to preserve fertility in male adolescent cancer patients, although thereremains a disconnect between their attitudes and practices with respect to referring patients for available services,according to results of the Survey for Preservation of Adolescent REproduction (SPARE) study.

The SPARE study was undertaken by researchers from the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, and isdesigned to assess current attitudes and practices of oncologists nationwide after release of the American Society of ClinicalOncology fertility preservation recommendations in 2006. Results were presented for answers pertaining to male adolescentcancer patients based on responses from 207 oncologists.

Almost all of the respondents agreed that pubertal and prepubertal patients should be told about potential drug or radiationdamage from cancer treatment. About 80% indicated that the threat to fertility was a major concern to them as physicians andfor the parents or patients themselves.

However, 55% of the respondents had not heard of the 2006 ASCO recommendations, only 41% applied the recommendations fordecision-making at least 50% of the time, and only 56% knew what intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) was. While 86% ofrespondents agreed that all pubertal male patients should be referred to a fertility preservation specialist, only 47% ofthose actually referred patients more than 50% of the time.

"The SPARE study results are encouraging in showing favorable attitudes about fertility preservation among oncologists," saidfirst author Tobias S. Köhler, MD, MPH, who worked on the research with Robert Brannigan, MD, and colleagues. "However,it appears additional promotion of the ASCO recommendations is necessary to optimize reproductive health for young cancer patients."