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experts react to pregnancy involving PGD for breast cancer

A woman from London will shortly become the first in the UK to give birth to a baby that has been screened to be free of a gene that significantly raises the risk of breast cancer, using the technique of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) in which embryos are selected for implantation based on identified genetic characteristics.

Prof Peter Braude, Director of the Centre for Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis at Guy’s Hospital London, and Head of Department of Women’s Health, King’s College London, said:

“I am delighted to hear the news that prevention of yet another serious disorder has been achieved, further demonstrating the important place of PGD as part of the services that should be offered to couples at significant genetic risk.

“Clearly, as the HFEA has recommended after their public consultation, the decision as to whether PGD is appropriate for a couple will be made after a thorough discussion with knowledgeable genetic counsellors and clinical geneticists. 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 of succeeding.”

Dr Alan Thornhill, Scientific Director, 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 regulatory body (HFEA) that licensed this treatment. Critics are ill-advised calling this important treatment ‘gene manipulation’. Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) involves only selection against existing disorders and no gene manipulation is ever involved. At Bridge we can now offer Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis for any genetic disorder for which the mutation is known (including predisposition and mutation in cancer genes such as BRCA-1).”

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