Fertility Preservation Program

As part of a long-term care strategy, we include services for our cancer survivors to help meet their specific needs and address potential complications they encounter as a result of aggressive treatments earlier in life. One such issue is impaired fertility. About 15% 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 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 cancer treatment team. Families are encouraged to discuss fertility preservation 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

We collaborate with Robert Brannigan, MD, a urologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, to provide fertility preservation services for our male patients.

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 option for pre-pubertal males who are not yet producing mature sperm. In this case, a specialist performs wedge resection on the patient to preserve a section of testicular tissue for future use.

For Females

We collaborate with Mary Ellen Pavone, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, to provide fertility preservation services for our female patients.

Oocyte (Egg) or Embryo Cryopreservation
This option is available to older teens and adult women. The woman is given hormones to stimulate her ovary to recruit and mature many eggs. The eggs are then harvested and frozen (oocyte cryo-preservation) 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 laposcopic 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 follicles (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, but research holds promise that the girls might be able to start a family when they are ready.

Gonadotropin Agonists/Antagonists (Hormone Therapy)
This is an 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. Yasmin Gosiengfiao, MD, provides leadership for the Fertility Preservation Program. She is board-certified in pediatric oncology and is an attending physician in Hematology/Oncology. Dr. Gosiengfiao is our resident expert in ovarian tissue cryopreservation.

A key staff member of the program is Barbara Lockart, RN, MSN, CPNP, CPON, is a pediatric nurse practitioner in Hematology/Oncology that has been counseling young patients and families for  their fertility options.
 
Our program’s collaborative partners at Northwestern Memorial Hospital are Robert Brannigan, MD, and Mary Ellen Pavone, MD. Dr. Brannigan is our liaison for male fertility, including sperm banking, TESE, and testicular tissue cryopreservation. He is board-certified in urology. Dr. Pavone is our liaison for female fertility, including egg/embryo banking, and is board-certified in reproductive endocrinology and infertility and obstetrics and gynecology.
 
Marleta Reynolds, MD; Erin Rowell, MD; and Elizabeth Yerkes, MD, are the program’s surgeons. Dr. Reynolds is Surgeon-in Chief and Head of Pediatric Surgery. She is board-certified in pediatric surgery, general surgery and surgical critical care. Dr. Rowell is an attending physician in the Division of Pediatric Surgery. Dr. Yerkes is an attending physician in the Division of Urology and is board-certified in pediatric urology.

Research

Our program participates in research to advance the field of fertility preservation and provide more options for our patients. Current studies include:
  • 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.
  • We collaborate closely with Monica Laronda, PhD, is a scientist who studies the mechanisms of fertility rescue and fertility preservation in children in the lab. The results of her research are posed to reveal critical new insights about new ways to improve fertility preservation. Learn more about Dr. Laronda's research.

Make an Appointment

To make an appointment with the Fertility Preservation Program, please contact Barbara Lockhart, RN, MSN, CPNP, CPON, at 312.227.4901.

Resources

For information about educational resources and support services, visit:

 

Learn More

To provide more in depth information on how the ovarian preservation surgery is performed, we've filmed one of our procedures. Please note, the video contains graphic images of internal organs and may not be suitable for all viewers.

Philanthropy

Your support is important in helping us continue to make a difference in the lives of patients and families. Lurie Children’s relies on philanthropic funding to enhance its programs, services and research for children. To learn more, please contact the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago Foundation at foundation@luriechildrens.org, call 312.227.7500 or make a gift today.