Cancer research has blossomed significantly since the signing of the National Cancer Act in 1971. With greater support for clinical and basic science research in cancer detection, diagnosis, and treatment, which was conducted by the newly-developed National Cancer Institute (NCI), cancer survival rates rose rapidly. Currently, 75% of pediatric cancer patients survive. Thus, support for the NCI and its affiliates has greatly improved the quality of life for a large number of cancer patients.
However, despite new hope for survival, many men, women, and children diagnosed with cancer experience impaired reproductive function as a result of the rigorous therapies they undergo as part of their cancer treatment and, thus, face unique challenges in planning their lives after cancer.
With increasing number of cancer survivors facing infertility after cancer treatment, the development of Oncofertility could not have come at a better time. To support the initiative to understand the risk of cancer therapies to reproductive health and to develop fertility-preserving options for new patients, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has just awarded a 21 million dollar grant devoted to Oncofertility research. It will fund the development of fertility-saving medical techniques, such as ovarian tissue cryopreservation, and will help launch the first comprehensive investigation into the social considerations of fertility after cancer today.
At the core of this new program is the Oncofertility Consortium, a multi-institutional project to assess the impact of cancer and its treatment on reproductive health. The Consortium brings together biomedical and social scientists, oncologists, pediatricians, engineers, educators, social workers, medical ethicists and more from Northwestern, the University of California-San Diego, University of Pennsylvania, University of Missouri and Oregon Health & Science University, as well as numerous satellite intitutions. This team of specialists is engaged in a thorough examination of the scientific, medical, psychological, legal and ethical issues surrounding infertility and cancer, with the goal of providing better cancer care and fertility options in the future.
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