Treatments pediatric cancer patients endure can reduce their chances of having children in the future. However, an experimental treatment available at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) could preserve fertility for young boys going through radiation.
The treatment is called spermatogonial stem-cell transplantation, and it involves taking a sample of testicular tissue and turning pre-sperm cells into viable samples. Then, when re-inserted into testes, even if they're damaged by radiation and chemotherapy, the sperm stem cells function as they would naturally and become sperm.
This service is offered to the parents of any prepubescent boy undergoing radiation. If a boy is old enough to give consent, they're asked a series of questions to ensure they understand and agree to the procedure. If they are too young to give consent, the decision is shifted to the parents or guardian. So far, 110 boys have their samples stored at UPMC.
A similar treatment is available for prepubescent girls undergoing cancer treatment. This involves harvesting and freezing an ovary to be re-implanted in the future. This process is also in the experimental phase, and UPMC currently has 25 frozen ovaries saved.
For decades, the re-implanting process has been studied on animals and there has been success. In animal trials, the samples have been viable for up to 14 years. Health professional believes that it is time to study the re-implanting process in human subjects.