Preserving Future Children

Preserving Future Children

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Fact checked by Derick Wilder


As childhood cancer survival rates improve, a common concern crops up for families: the child’s future fertility. 

Ten years ago, Lurie Children’s Hospital launched a groundbreaking fertility preservation program that gives families a chance to retain that fertility. The team has performed preservations for more than 360 children so far. It remains the only program of its kind in Illinois. 

Pediatric surgeon Erin Rowell, MD, and translational researcher Monica Laronda, PhD, co-direct the Fertility & Hormone Preservation & Restoration Program. They work with a team of specialists to offer tissue cryopreservation, which involves freezing reproductive tissues from testes, ovaries, and intersex gonads. When and if the patient is ready to have children, the team will thaw the tissue and transplant it into the patient. 

The tissue’s viability only lasts a few years once thawed, but frozen tissue can support multiple consecutive transplants.

“So much of it is counseling and educating the family where their increased risk of infertility lies, based on their disease or treatment,” Laronda says. “But if you know you’re going to have these high toxic levels of chemotherapy that are going to destroy the potential gametes, then cryopreserving a small biopsy of testis tissue or one ovary is worth it to many people.”  

Above photo: Dr. Monica Laronda in the lab. Photo courtesy of Lurie Children’s Hospital
Originally published in the Spring/Summer 2024 print issue.