The Joint Annual Scientific Meetings of the Endocrine Society of Australia and the Society for Reproductive Biology 2018

Oncofertility: a catalyst for significant advances in female reproduction (#115)

Karla Hutt 1
  1. Development and Stem Cells Program, Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute and Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, Monash University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia

In recent years, early diagnosis and improved treatments have led to a sharp rise in cancer survivorship. Unfortunately, a side-effect of many treatments is damage to the ovary and depletion of the ovarian follicular reserve, causing infertility and ovarian endocrine failure. This clinical need has driven the development of a new field of interdisciplinary science called oncofertility, which bridges reproduction, endocrinology and oncology. The goal of the basic scientists, medical researchers, oncologists and fertility specialists actively engaged in this area is to develop and implement effective treatments to enable cancer survivors to have children later in life, should they choose to. The fertility preservation options currently available include embryo, oocyte and ovarian tissue cryopreservation. These options harness knowledge and techniques that have been developed and optimized in the last 50 years. In addition, exciting new developments in the laboratory hold great promise for the future, including the bioprosthetic ovary, and the generation of fully mature oocytes from induced pluripotent stem cells, entirely in vitro. Such developments are made possible through discovery research aimed at understanding the biological and physical processes that regulate the growth and development of oocytes and follicles. Similarly, our recent research focusses on understanding the precise mechanisms by which oocytes and follicles die, both during normal life and following exposure to anticancer drugs. The intent is that the knowledge gained from these studies will facilitate the development of effective, non-invasive, targeted pharmacological treatments that protect the ovarian reserve from damage and depletion during cancer treatment. This is a desirable strategy because it would simultaneously ensure ovarian hormone production and fertility, offering a long-term solution. Collectively, these examples illustrate that oncofertility is both a beneficiary of, and catalyst for, significant advances in female reproduction.