Tissue banking may preserve fertility for boys with cancer

November 19, 2009

A new experimental procedure allows boys with cancer to have a tiny portion of their testis removed and frozen for potential future use, according to results of a recent study.

A new experimental procedure allows boys with cancer to have a tiny portion of their testis removed and frozen for potential future use, according to results of a recent study.

Researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia are also using part of the removed tissue to investigate ways to help the immature cells in the testes develop into useable sperm.

"Even though there are currently no guarantees of clinical success, families are highly receptive to this option," said first author Jill P. Ginsberg, MD.

Beginning in January 2008, a multidisciplinary team at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia approached the families of 21 boys, ranging from 3 months to 14 years, who had been just diagnosed with various solid tumors.

All faced the imminent prospect of treatments with chemotherapy or radiation that carried a significant risk of male infertility.

Of the 21 families approached, 16 consented to the biopsy as part of the research study. Fourteen of the 16 underwent the procedure.

In the procedure, performed at the same time the child was already under general anesthesia for standard clinical care, a small portion of one of the testes was removed. Half of each specimen was frozen for potential future use, and the remaining half was saved for research and analysis. In all cases, the biopsy was done safely, without negative side effects, the researchers said.

All of the families in the study completed a questionnaire regarding their beliefs about fertility and the factors involved in their decision whether to freeze testicular tissue. Five of the 21 families refused the biopsy, often because they were too overwhelmed by their child’s cancer diagnosis to make the decision about the testicular biopsy.

Results from the study appeared online in Human Reproduction (Oct. 27, 2009).