Children and women of reproductive age are increasingly surviving cancer diagnoses, and therefore long-term quality-of-life issues are of greater importance at the time of diagnosis. Cancer therapies including radiation and chemotherapy can be detrimental to fertility, and therefore many patients are motivated to preserve fertility prior to cancer treatment. The only highly successful method in preserving fertility to date is embryo cryopreservation, which may not be appropriate for some patients due to age, delay in treatment, cancer type and stage, as well as availability of an acceptable sperm donor. Alternative methods including oocyte cryopreservation and ovarian tissue banking may also preserve fertility while providing additional flexibility to patients. In vitro ovarian follicle maturation following tissue banking is one potential approach that would not require a delay in cancer therapy for ovarian stimulation, would not require an immediate sperm donor, and does not carry the risk of reintroducing malignant cells following tissue transplantation. In vitro follicle culture systems have resulted in successful live births in the mouse. However, many challenges must be addressed in translating the system to the human. This review summarizes current approaches to fertility preservation and discusses recent developments and future challenges in developing a human in vitro follicle culture system.
(c) 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.