10 January 2009
A girl born with the altered BRCA1 gene has a 50–80 percent chance of developing breast cancer – but screening can prevent this. The technique known as 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 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 cancer that has blighted these families for generations.”
A properly functioning BRCA1 protein helps stop cancer before it starts but faulty genes greatly increase the risk of cancer. The mother, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “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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