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University of Washington Medical Center

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Keeping Reproductive Hope Alive for Cancer Patients

Pilar Cordero is an IVOS veteran, logging in over seven years of analyzer use at the University of Washington Medical Center Male Fertility Lab.

Ms. Cordero says that a large portion of the lab’s work involves cryopreservation of sperm, most notably sperm from cancer and trauma patients. Pilar says, “It can be difficult work, but with the help of the IVOS we can determine the best way to provide the greatest sperm fertility.” Because chemotherapy or other trauma may decrease sperm concentration or impair motility, they perform preliminary tests using the IVOS to determine if these parameters meet the requirements to undergo the freezing process.

Cordero points out that “IDENT® is extremely useful in this application. Chemotherapy patients often have a lot of leukocytes (white blood cells) and germ cells in their sperm. Using the IDENT® stain helps to rule out those cells and get a more accurate analysis.”

If the sperm passes the preliminary test, further analysis is performed using Hamilton Thorne’s Dimensions strict morphology program for human sperm. Cordero has good things to say about Dimensions, “Anyone can use Dimensions. It is very easy to use.” She also recommends using the built-in quality control review for samples with high levels of leukocytes or germ cells. Using this feature, she can quickly scan the analysis results to provide the highest level of accuracy.

Of course, the IVOS is also an integral part of a standard fertility work up.

“We try to determine what is the real cause of the patient’s infertility. The eye can only see so much, but the IVOS can see the velocity, amplitude, the BCF. IVOS and Dimensions are high speed, accurate tools.” 

Pilar Cordero
BS Lab Supervisor
Pilar Cordero, BS Lab Supervisor
Male Fertility Laboratory, Department of Urology Seattle, WA

The lab uses the IVOS to help determine what type of assisted reproduction technique should be attempted. Generally couples come to the lab to confirm if artificial insemination (AI) will work for them. If the sperm does not meet the requirements necessary for successful AI, alternative methods of fertilization are suggested. Cordero points out that, “the IVOS helps us to determine which way to direct patients, it helps us to help them.”

“With the recent advent of ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection), the outlook for male cancer survivors to father children has changed,” comments Jon L. Pryor, M. D., of the University of Minnesota’s Fairview-University Medical Center in Minneapolis. Although a recent study published in Cancer magazine found that an astonishing 73% of male cancer patients forfeited the option to preserve their semen, this trend may be reversing. Pryor encourages his interns to “be assertive when encouraging patients to cryopreserve sperm…because many patients fail to think of long term issues at the time of pre-therapy counseling.” With the advances made with the help of the IVOS and ZILOS, cancer patients can still hope to have a family one day.