Fertility preservation strategies for male patients with cancer
With the increasing number of patients surviving cancer, there is increasing interest in long-term quality of life, especially with respect to cancer-related infertility. Although infertility most commonly occurs as the result of treatment with gonadotoxic agents, it can also manifest before treatment has commenced. Current fertility preservation strategies for the postpubertal male patient with cancer focus on sperm cryopreservation before therapy. Sperm acquisition techniques should be discussed with the patient as early as possible, by either an oncologist or a specialist in male reproduction. For patients rendered infertile by cancer treatment who did not cryopreserve sperm beforehand, there are no techniques currently available to restore fertility. For the prepubertal male patient, cryopreservation of sperm is impossible. However, emerging research--primarily in animal models--into promising fertility preservation and restoration strategies might provide a clinical solution in the future. Advances in the protection and cryopreservation of spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs) might translate into clinical options for fertility preservation before treatment. Restoring fertility after treatment might also be possible via SSC autotransplantation or in vitro maturation of SSCs. Before any of these techniques become clinically viable, a number of scientific, logistical and ethical issues will need to be resolved.