Close collaboration between research teams and teaching hospitals takes discoveries from bench-to-bedside at speed. Pioneering research which is near to patient benefit is a significant part of the work of a number of Restricted Funds.
Cancer can strike at any age, but for children who have not yet entered puberty, parents’ thoughts often turn to their life after treatment, and their ability to have their own children. There is a high risk of infertility as a result of treatment for some cancers.
Cryopreservation is established and successful for males at risk of infertility who are able to produce a semen sample before treatment. However, there are currently no options to preserve the fertility of pre-pubertal boys.
Professor Hamish Wallace and Dr Rod Mitchell are leading an experimental clinical service and research programme to preserve and later try to restore fertility in pre-pubertal boys with cancer who would otherwise be left infertile. The first stage of this work is to create a cryopreservation programme for the long-term storage of testicular tissue. The second is to develop strategies that can enable germ cells to develop into sperm cells to restore fertility at a later stage.
“It is estimated that up to 1 in 500 adults is a survivor of childhood cancer, and infertility is a recognized long-term effect of cancer treatment in some of these patients. Edinburgh has recently become the first centre in the UK to establish a fertility preservation programme to store testicular tissue from young cancer patients prior to their treatment. Funding from the Health Foundation has provided a state of the art incubator for the research arm of the fertility preservation project. ”
Dr Rod Mitchell
Honorary Consultant Paediatric Endocrinologist
Royal Hospital for Sick Children