Baby born free from breast cancer gene
The first baby in the UK who was genetically screened to be free of the breast cancer gene has been born.
Medics at University College London confirmed that the baby girl was born earlier this week and mother and daughter were doing well.
The embryo was screened for the altered BRCA1 gene – which meant an 80% chance the baby would develop breast cancer later in life.
The reason for the screening? Three generations of women in the father’s family have been diagnosed with breast cancer, and all were in their 20s.
Now doctors hope that the child will buck the family’s trend of suffering from the disease.
The births hails the beginning of a screening process that could deliver hope for thousands more families which carry the breast cancer gene – a killer for 15,000 women in Britain every year.
Paul Serhal, the fertility expert who treated the couple, said: ‘This little girl will not face the spectre of developing this genetic form of breast cancer or ovarian cancer in her adult life.
‘The parents will have been spared the risk of inflicting this disease on their daughter.’
He added: ‘The lasting legacy is the eradication of the transmission of this form of cancer that has blighted these families for generations.’
Doctors screened for the gene by looking at one cell taken from the embryo when it is just three days old. They can then determine which of the woman’s embryos don’t carry the BRCA1 gene.
The healthy embryo is then implanted into the womb using IVF treatment.
Doctors have already pinpointed genes which cause cystic fibrosis and a type of eye cancer and around 1,000 babies have been born without either threat.
The procedure has divided opinion with Josephine Quintavalle of the campaign group Comment on Reproductive Ethics commenting: ‘This is nothing personal towards the girl, but I think we have gone too far. Underlying all this is eugenics.’
Giving her own view of the medical advancement, Dr Sarah Cant of Breakthrough Breast Cancer said: ‘The decision to screen embryos to see whether they have a faulty breast cancer gene is a complex and very personal issue.
‘Women with a family history of breast cancer tell us that what might be right for one person may not be right for another.
‘It’s important for anyone affected to have appropriate information and support so they can make the right choice for them.’