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Breast cancer gene-free baby due
A woman from London will give birth next week to the first British baby
screened to be free of a gene for breast cancer.
Women in three generations of her husband's family have been diagnosed with the
disease in their twenties.
Without the embryo screening, any daughter born would have a 50-80% chance of
experiencing breast cancer.
But one expert warned the technique would not be suitable for all couples with
this disease in their family.
Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) involves taking a cell from an embryo
at the eight-cell stage of development, when it is around three-days old, and
Using PGD to ensure a baby does not carry a gene which would guarantee a baby
would inherit a disease such as cystic fibrosis, is well-established.
But in 2006, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority said doctors
could test for so-called susceptibility genes, such as BRCA1 - the gene in this
family's case, where there was a high risk that a baby would develop a disease
later in life.
BRCA1 and a related gene, BRCA2, account for around 5% of breast cancers.
Many women who discover they have inherited one of the genes choose to have a
double mastectomy to remove their breasts.
'A new era'
In this case, the 27-year-old woman and her husband, who are being treated by
fertility expert Paul Serhal at University College Hospital London, do not yet
know if they are having a girl or a boy.
The couple, who wish to remain anonymous, want to eradicate the gene flaw from
their family. The husband's grandmother, mother, sister and a cousin have been
diagnosed with the disease.
While a daughter could have been affected by breast cancer herself if she
carried the gene, a son could have been a carrier and passed it on to his
Mr Serhal said: "The whole objective of this exercise is not just to make sure
the child doesn't have the gene, but to stop the transmission from generation
He said it was "an exciting new era," adding that it would be possible to
screen for any gene which had been linked to a specific cancer.
But he said that, in this case, not carrying the BRCA1 gene would not guarantee
any daughter born to the couple would be unaffected by breast cancer because
there are other genetic and environmental causes.
Dr Alan Thornhill, scientific director of the London Bridge Fertility,
Gynaecology and Genetics Centre, said: "While the technology and approach used
in this case is fairly routine, it is the first time in the UK that a family
has successfully eliminated a mutant breast cancer gene for their child.
"It is a victory for both the parents and the HFEA that licensed this treatment.
But Professor Peter Braude, director of the Centre for PGD at Guy's Hospital in
London, said: "The decision as to whether PGD is appropriate for a couple will
be made after a thorough discussion with knowledgeable genetic counsellors and
"It will not be suitable for everyone who has experience of breast cancer in
their family, nor where the chances of the IVF needed for PGD has a low chance
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/12/19 16:35:39 GMT
© BBC MMVIII
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