British doctors deliver cancer-proof baby

January 9th, 2009 - 5:27 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Jan 9 (IANS) The first British baby genetically selected to be free of a breast cancer gene has been born, doctors said Friday.She grew from an embryo screened to ensure it did not contain the faulty BRCA1 gene, which passes the risk of breast cancer down generations.

University College Hospital in London said the mother, a 27-year-old Londoner, and her little girl were doing “very well.”

Women in three generations of the father’s family have been diagnosed with the disease in their 20s, including his mother, grandmother, sister and cousin.

A girl born with the altered BRCA1 gene have a 50-80 percent chance of developing breast cancer - but screening can prevent this.

The technique used is known as Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), which involves taking a cell from an embryo at the eight-cell stage of development, when it is around three-days old, and testing it.

Paul Serhal, medical director of the hospital’s assisted conception unit, 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. The lasting legacy is the eradication of the transmission of this form of cancer that has blighted these families for generations.”

The treatment follows the green-signal given by Britain’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority in 2006, which said doctors could test for ‘susceptibility genes’ such as BRCA1.

A properly functioning BRCA1 protein helps stop cancer before it starts but faulty genes greatly increase the risk of cancer.

BRCA1 and a related version of another gene, BRCA2, account for around five percent of breast cancers.

The mother, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “We had been through his sister being ill, so it was something we had seen first hand.

“I thought this was something I had to try because, if we had a daughter with this gene, and she was ill, I couldn’t look her in the face and say I didn’t try.”

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