Chemotherapy treatment is a mainstay of anticancer regimens, significantly contributing to the recent increase in childhood cancer survival rates. Conventional cancer therapy targets not only malignant but also healthy cells resulting in side effects including infertility. For prepubertal boys, there are currently no fertility preservation strategies in use, although several potential methods are under investigation. Most of the current knowledge in relation to prepubertal gonadotoxicity has been deduced from adult studies; however, the prepubertal testis is relatively quiescent in comparison to the adult. This review provides an overview of research to date in humans and animals describing chemotherapy-induced prepubertal gonadotoxicity, focusing on direct gonadal damage. Testicular damage is dependent upon the agent, dosage, administration schedule and age/pubertal status at time of treatment. The chemotherapy agents investigated so far target the germ cell population activating apoptotic pathways and may also impair Sertoli cell function. Due to use of combined chemotherapy agents for patients, the impact of individual drugs is hard to define, however, use of in vivo and in vitro animal models can overcome this problem. Furthering our understanding of how chemotherapy agents target the prepubertal testis will provide clarity to patients on the gonadotoxicity of different drugs and aid in the development of cytoprotective agents.
Caroline M Allen, Federica Lopes, Rod T Mitchell and Norah Spears
Karen R Kilcoyne and Rod T Mitchell
Transplantation of testicular tissues and cells has been proposed as a future clinical option for patients who have had testicular tissue cryopreserved prior to receiving gonadotoxic therapies. Whilst this approach remains experimental, success using animal models and successful transplantation of ovarian tissue resulting in live births in female patients provides optimism for the development of clinical applications involving transplantation of testicular tissue in males. Careful consideration must be given to patient groups that may benefit from this approach in the future. Current research is focused on optimising patient selection, methods for tissue cryopreservation and development of transplantation techniques that might restore sperm production or future fertility in males. Crucially, attention must be focused on ensuring safety of transplantation, including eliminating the potential for infection or re-introducing malignancy. Furthermore the genetic/epigenetic integrity of any gametes generated must be ensured to allow generation of normal offspring. This review will provide an overview of the current status of transplantation of testicular tissue and cells for fertility preservation in males.