Fertility & Hormone Preservation & Restoration Program

Pediatric patients with a variety of cancer, genetic, endocrine and rheumatologic conditions may be candidates for fertility preservation as part of their comprehensive care. In particular, pediatric cancer patients today experience a significantly increased overall survival and prolonged life expectancy due to continued advancement in medical therapies.

The remarkable improvements in survivorship have prompted increased awareness of long-term quality of life concerns, including the risk of infertility among adult survivors of childhood cancer. About 15 percent of cancer survivors have fertility issues, and we have developed a comprehensive program to offer solutions to both our male and female patients. The fertility program at Lurie Children’s is the only one of its kind for pediatric patients in the state of Illinois.

The Lurie Children’s Difference

We treat the whole child as part of our comprehensive care approach and believe fertility preservation is an element of the overall treatment strategy that patients create with their clinical team. In the case of cancer treatments, families are encouraged to discuss the effects that their disease or disease treatments may have on their fertility and hormone production with their medical specialists at the time of diagnosis.

Each patient is unique, so fertility preservation must be tailored and carefully integrated with a patient’s treatment. Appropriate fertility preservation options depend on the age of the patient, as well as the cancer treatment the patient will receive. Fertility preservation can also apply to patients treated for other conditions, such as patients with genetic disorders that might cause infertility, or patients with rheumatology disorders who receive medications that might result in infertility.

Oncofertility Consortium

We are a member of the nationwide Oncofertility Consortium at Northwestern University, a group of fertility experts, oncologists, surgeons, urologists, endocrinologists and researchers that are working to provide fertility preservation options to patients who are at risk for infertility due to cancer treatment, surgery or a congenital condition.

What to Expect

Our program offers fertility preservation options for both males and females:

For Males

Sperm Cryopreservation
Sperm cryopreservation is an option for post-pubertal males. This technique has been used for decades and is an established therapy. Our staff is experienced in providing care to young males. We approach fertility preservation with sensitivity and attention to the child’s level of development.

Testicular Sperm Extraction (TESE)
TESE is available for post-pubertal males that do not have sperm present in their ejaculate. It is a surgical procedure to obtain testicular tissue and extract sperm cells from the tissue that are preserved for future use.

Testicular Tissue Cryopreservation
Testicular tissue cryopreservation is an innovative option for pre-pubertal males who are not yet producing mature sperm. In this case, a surgeon performs excision of a portion of the testicle tissue, which is frozen for the patient’s future use. This technique is considered experimental, and the research is being conducted in collaboration with the University of Pittsburg.

For Females

Oocyte (Egg) or Embryo Cryopreservation
This option is available to post-pubertal teens and adult women. The female is given hormones to stimulate her ovary to recruit and mature many eggs. The eggs are then harvested and frozen (oocyte cryopreservation) for future use. These eggs can also be fertilized immediately with sperm from a partner or using donor sperm and the resulting embryo can then be frozen (embryo cryopreservation) for use when the young woman is ready to have children. This option requires time before beginning cancer treatment, in order to complete the stimulation and harvesting process.

Ovarian Tissue Cryopreservation
Our program offers an innovative option, ovarian tissue cryopreservation, to female patients before beginning aggressive treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation. One ovary is removed by laparoscopic surgery. The ovary is then frozen. When the patient is ready to have children, the ovary may either be implanted back into the body or the oocytes (immature eggs) in the ovary can be matured into eggs and fertilized for pregnancy. This technique is considered experimental and there is no guarantee of pregnancy; however, there have been over 100 live births from transplantation of this tissue back into the body to restore ovarian hormones and fertility, if and when the patient is ready to start a family.

Gonadotropin Agonists/Antagonists (Hormone Therapy)
This is a method of preserving fertility wherein hormones which suppress the function of the ovaries are given right before chemotherapy. These hormones may help protect the ovaries from the harmful effects of chemotherapy. The benefit to this method has not been clearly established.

Our Specialists

Our multidisciplinary team brings together oncology experts, pediatric surgeons and fertility specialists to collaborate on patient care. Erin Rowell, MD, is the Director of the Fertility and Hormone Preservation and Restoration Program. She is a board-certified pediatric surgeon and is an attending physician in the Division of Pediatric Surgery. Dr. Rowell’s research focuses on surgical technique for ovary removal to ensure the healthiest possible tissue samples for future restoration of fertility and hormone function. She collaborates in these research efforts with Monica Laronda, PhD, in the Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute. Their basic science and translational research has been highlighted as a research priority focus of the hospital.

Other members of the multi-disciplinary team include:

Pediatric Surgery

Mary Beth Madonna, MD
Attending Physician, Pediatric Surgery; Assistant Professor of Surgery, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Timothy Lautz, MD
Attending Physician, Pediatric Surgery; Assistant Professor of Surgery, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Marleta Reynolds, MD
Chair, Department of Surgery and Surgeon-In-Chief; Lydia J. Fredrickson Professor of Pediatric Surgery, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Barbara Lockart, DNP, APN/CNP, CPON
Pediatric Nurse Practitioner for Pediatric Surgery, Solid Tumors, and Fertility Preservation

Oncology

Amy Walz, MD
Attending Physician, Hematology/Oncology; Instructor of Pediatrics, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Endocrinology

Courtney Finlayson, MD
Attending Physician, Endocrinology; Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Reema Habiby, MD
Attending Physician, Endocrinology; Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Jill Samis, MD
Attending Physician, Endocrinology; Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Urology

Emilie Johnson, MD, MPH
Attending Physician, Urology; Assistant Professor of Urology, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Elizabeth Yerkes, MD
Attending Physician, Urology; Associate Professor of Surgery, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Robert Brannigan, MD
Attending Physician, Urology, Northwestern Medicine; Associate Professor of Surgery, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Valerie Gillis, MMS, PA-L
Physician Assistant, Northwestern Medicine

Adolescent Medicine

Rob Garofalo, MD, MPH
Division Head, Adolescent Medicine; Attending Physician, Adolescent Medicine; Professor of Pediatrics (Adolescent Medicine) and Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Lisa Simons, MD
Attending Physician, Adolescent Medicine; Instructor of Pediatrics (Adolescent Medicine) at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine Psychology

Diane Chen, PhD
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Pediatrics, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Obstetrics and Gynecology/Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility

Mary Ellen Pavone, MD
Attending Physician, Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility; Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Kristin Smith
Patient Navigator for Fertility Preservation, Northwestern Medicine/Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center

Research

Monica Laronda, PhD
Warren & Eloise Batts Research Scholar, Department of Surgery, Ann & Robert H Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago; Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Endocrinology, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Teresa Woodruff, PhD
Thomas J. Watkins Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Feinberg School of Medicine; Chief of the Division of Fertility Preservation and Oncofertility Consortium

Research

Our program participates in research to advance the field of fertility and hormone preservation and restoration to provide future options for our patients. Current studies include:

  • The National Physicians Cooperative, part of the Oncofertility Consortium, is a nation-wide collaboration of physicians whose mission is to protect and preserve reproductive health through the continuum of care and across the lifespan of patients. This is an NIH funded program that began at Northwestern University.
  • Ovarian Tissue Cryopreservation, which has the goal to use long-term preservation of ovarian tissue with the potential to remove and mature eggs from the tissue in the future. If this method is proven successful, tissue and/or eggs can be used to initiate pregnancies after the patient is in remission.
  • Ovarian Reserve After Cancer: Longitudinal Effects (ORACLE), which observes for changes in ovarian function during and after treatment for cancer. This study is in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Monica Laronda, PhD, is the Director of Basic and Translational Research for the Fertility & Hormone Preservation & Restoration program. She is a reproductive endocrinologist who studies the mechanisms of fertility and hormone restoration. Her research aims to reveal critical insights about new ways to improve fertility preservation. Dr. Laronda's work was recently published in the journal Nature. Her work was also featured on WTTW-TV's Chicago Tonight, Science Daily, and Canada's CTV News​Learn more about Dr. Laronda's research.

Make an Appointment

To make an appointment with the Fertility and Hormone Preservation and Restoration Program, please call 312.227.4901.

Resources

For information about educational resources and support services, visit:


​3-D Printed Ovaries Produce Healthy Offspring, Shows Promise for Fertility Treatments

Monica Laronda, PhD, is working on cutting-edge research that has restored fertility and hormone production in a mouse using 3-D ovaries. This latest study was published in the journal Nature Communications, and featured on Canadian TV. Her ultimate objective is to help restore fertility and hormone production in women who have undergone adult cancer treatments or those who survived childhood cancer and now have increased risks of infertility and hormone-based developmental issues. Dr. Laronda is the Warren & Eloise Batts Research Scholar, Department of Surgery, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Endocrinology, Feinberg School.