Woodruff says a galvanizing moment for
her came when she became aware that a
cousin who had breast cancer was concerned about whether treatment would
affect her ability to have a baby. Later, as
basic science director of Northwestern’s
Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer
Center in the mid-2000s, Woodruff was
disheartened to realize that the fertility
preservation needs of many young cancer
patients, particularly girls and women,
were not being met.
In 2007, Woodruff founded the
Oncofertility Consortium, a network of
biomedical and social scientists working to
advance promising oncofertility technolo-
gies from “bench to bedside to baby,” as
she puts it. Her own lab’s projects include
studying new ways to assess the health
of eggs to be used for IVF and creating
“bioprosthetic ovaries,” 3-D printed struc-
tures made from organic material that she
hopes may someday serve as partial replace-
ments for ovaries in patients whose own are
no longer functional.
Woodruff spoke with Cancer Today
about what cancer patients should know
about fertility preservation.
C T: Do cancer treatments always lead to
infertility in patients?
WOODRUFF: They do not, and men and
women are not affected in the same way.
Men have a replenishing number of sperm.
If they have any stem cells remaining after
cancer treatment, they could have the
likelihood of fertility down the line. Women,
on the other hand, have a fixed number of
follicles in the ovary that each contain an
egg. If all or most of those are damaged,
For 15 years, Teresa Woodruff has been working to preserve the fertility of cancer patients. Now the director of the Center for Reproductive Science at Northwestern University in Chicago,
she helped launch a new discipline at the intersection of cancer care
and reproductive medicine, a field she named “oncofertility.”
RESEARCH SCIENTIST TERESA WOODRUFF IS DETERMINED
TO MAKE FERTILITY PRESERVATION ACCESSIBLE TO MORE
YOUNG ADULTS AND CHILDREN WITH CANCER.
PHOTO COUR TES Y OF NOR TH WES TERN UNIVERSIT Y