LONDON, May 9 (Xinhua) -- British women with inherited forms of breast cancer will be allowed to select embryos free from genes that can cause the disease, according to a report in the Times on Tuesday.
The recommendation has won the backing of the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA) ethics and law committee and will be approved on Wednesday by the government's fertility watchdog, the report said.
The landmark ruling from the HFEA will permit thousands of women who carry the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations, which are known to increase the likelihood of developing breast cancer, to spare their daughters a genetic inheritance that confers an 80 percent lifetime risk of developing breast cancer.
The move also applies to a third gene that predisposes to bowel cancer.
People who know that they have the BRCA1, BRCA2 or HNPCC (Hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer) colon cancer genes will be able to seek IVF treatment, during which a single cell is removed from the embryos for testing. Only embryos without those genes would be used.
The screening procedure, known as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), is at present approved only for mutations that lead to at least a 90 percent chance of developing a disease.
BRCA1 and BRCA2 also raise the risk of ovarian cancer to 40 percent, together accounting for about 5 percent of the 41,700 cases of breast cancer in Britain each year, and HNPCC confers a 90 percent risk of bowel cancer for men and 70 percent for women by the age of 70, accounting for up to 5 percent of the 34,900 annual cases in Britain.
Patient groups welcomed the recommendation as a measure that would help families that have suffered genetic diseases over several generations, the daily said, adding that the first application for a license to perform PGD for breast cancer was expected within weeks.
The daily said the decision will deepen controversy over " designer babies" as it significantly extends the inherited conditions that can be prevented by "cherry-picking" embryos. Enditem