Woman uses genetic screening to ensure baby is free of cancer

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The Independent Online

The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, is thought to have used IVF treatment despite not having fertility problems. According to The Times, doctors ensured the woman did not pass on a form of hereditary eye cancer.

Doctors at the University College London were able to remove a cell and test it for the cancer gene, in order that only an unaffected embryo could be transferred to the woman's womb.

The couple are thought to be the first to take advantage of the government's recent relaxation of rules allowing screening for eye cancer, which came into effect last year.

When the technique was first developed in the late 1980s it was only permitted for use in genes that always caused disease, such as those for cystic fibrosis. The mother-to-be conceived after receiving treatment from Paul Serhal, who has pioneered the use of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to detect inheritable cancers in Britain.

The reported impregnation follows an announcement from the fertility watchdog, The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), to extend the types of embryos that can be screened. The watchdog approved the extension of embryo screening to allow tests for propensity to breast, ovarian and colon cancer. Patients with gene mutations that are linked to an increased risk of the diseases will be able to ensure that their children do not carry the same faults.

Fertility experts and geneticists welcomed the decision, but pro-lifers said the testing was tantamount to eugenics.

The move will allow patients to test for diseases that are not certain to occur, are treatable and tend to develop in later life.