Subscribe to the BioNews newsletter for free

Login
Advanced Search

Search for
BioNews


Print Page Follow BioNews on Twitter BioNews RSS feed

Like the Progress Educational Trust on Facebook



King's College London - Health: More than a medical matter

Issue 346 (20 February 2006)

Welcome to BioNews by email, the free weekly digest of the top news stories in assisted conception, genetics, embryo/stem cell research and related areas published by the Progress Educational Trust. Sent to registered subscribers each week, BioNews informs debate in these areas by providing balanced and timely summaries of the news alongside comment, reviews, jobs and opportunities, events and recommendations.

Visit the BioNews website at www.bionews.org.uk where you can subscribe for free to receive BioNews by email in one of three formats, and search the archive of more than 6,000 articles.

 

CONTENTS

Comment

News Digest

Reviews


 



Genetic testing, insurance and employment

20 February 2006

By Dr Helen Wallace

GeneWatch UK

Appeared in BioNews 346
Last week, in a Joint Statement of Concern, forty-five organisations and individuals expressed their fears about the lack of safeguards to prevent genetic discrimination. The Statement calls on the Government to legislate against the use of genetic test results in employment and insurance. Many European countries have such laws, however, in Britain, the current agreement between the Government and the insurance industry is partial, temporary and not legally binding. There is also no legislation to prevent employers using genetic test results to decide who gets a pension or a job.

The current voluntary agreement between the Government and the Association of British Insurers (ABI) adopted in 2005 (the 'Concordat') adopts the principle that insurers have the right to seek access to predictive genetic test results, along with all other relevant risk information (the 'right to underwrite'). At the same time, it extends the voluntary moratorium on the use of most predictive genetic test results to 2011. Whilst the moratorium remains in place, tests approved by the Genetics and Insurance Committee (GAIC) can only be requested when people apply to buy high-value insurance policies (over £500,000 of life insurance, or over £300,000 for some other types of insurance). Currently, only one test (for Huntington's Disease) has been approved. However, after 2011 approved genetic tests could become routinely used in assessing insurance applications. Recently, the ABI informed the GAIC that it intended to submit applications this year to use BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic test results, linked with an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

The ABI's continued defence of its 'right to underwrite' is based on concerns that people who have adverse genetic test results will buy more insurance and make more claims, increasing costs. However, the potential for 'adverse selection' based on genetic tests is extremely limited, because only a small number of people will have highly predictive results. The actual impact on insurance industry finances would be even smaller, because people do not necessarily choose to increase their cover, or have the financial resources to do so.

Insurers always exercise a choice about which risk categories to use, and this choice is influenced by social and ethical considerations - for example, ethnic group is normally not used to decide insurance premiums. Genetic tests base risk categories on factors that a person cannot change (their genes), rather than factors that they can, and imply a life-long categorisation as 'at high genetic risk'. For modifiable risk factors, increased premiums arguably act as an incentive to improve health (for example, to quit smoking), but for genetic risk factors increased premiums may act as a disincentive to take a test (or sometimes as an incentive, if insurance has already been refused as a result of family history). This financial disincentive (or incentive) is problematic because it may not coincide with what is best for the health and mental well-being of the individual. The fact that genes cannot be changed also underlies the widespread public view that using genetic tests to set insurance premiums is basically unfair.

The main argument against insurers' use of genetic test results is the impact this can have on medical decisions and the anxiety and uncertainty it would create for patients. A recent survey, by the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer, found that nearly a third of women with a family history of breast cancer might not take the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic tests if they had to reveal the results to insurers. The lack of legislation means that these women face continuing uncertainty about whether they will suffer discrimination in the future, as they may live with an adverse test result for decades.

In the future, requests to reveal genetic test results could also come from employers, with controversial implications for people's access to jobs or employment benefits. The Disability Discrimination Act does not cover people who have adverse genetic test results but no symptoms of disability or illness. There are widespread concerns from trade unions and some scientists that screening and selecting workers could become a damaging alternative to reducing workplace hazards, or be used to try to cut employers' pension or insurance costs - as has already happened in the US.

In GeneWatch's view, people should be able to make the difficult decision about whether or not to take a predictive genetic test on health grounds alone. A guarantee of confidentiality is critically important in the context of these medical decisions and must take precedence over any so-called 'right to underwrite'. Following the launch of the Joint Statement, the insurance industry has changed its mind and written to the GAIC to say it will not be submitting any applications until at least 2008. We hope this will create an opportunity for the Government to draft legislation to prevent genetic discrimination by both insurers and employers.

 

SOURCES & REFERENCES

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

02 July 2012 - by George Frodsham 
People who undergo genetic testing to establish their future risk of developing a genetic condition, such as Alzheimer's or breast cancer, will continue to have the right to take out health insurance without disclosing the test results to their insurer.... [Read More]
24 September 2007 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
The UK's Human Genetics Commission (HGC) has called for the proposed Equality Bill to include measures to prohibit genetic discrimination both in the workplace and by the insurance industry. Speaking on behalf of the HGC, acting Chairman Sir John Sulston, said that such measures 'would be a... [Read More]
14 May 2007 - by Danielle Hamm 
According to recent news reports, the UK's Association of British Insurers (ABI) may seek permission to use the results of predictive genetic tests for inherited breast and ovarian cancer, to set insurance premiums. Mutated versions of the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 are known to confer a high... [Read More]
29 March 2006 - by Anne Begg MP 
Genetic testing potentially holds the key to providing many treatments, and possibly even cures, for a whole range of diseases. The knowledge that someone has a genetic condition or propensity may determine lifestyle choices, or help in early detection so that remedial treatment can prevent the symptoms from occurring. As... [Read More]
27 February 2006 - by Dr Alison Stewart 
The last two weeks have seen yet another outcry on the topic of 'genetic discrimination' in insurance. The main thrust of the argument is that because we cannot do anything about our genes it should be illegal to treat us differently on the basis of our genetic risk of death... [Read More]

16 February 2006 - by BioNews 
Nobel prize winner Sir John Sulston has repeated his call for new UK laws to prevent genetic discrimination. He says that when the current moratorium on the use of genetic tests results by insurers runs out, in November 2011, it should be replaced by legislation. Professor Sulston, who is vice-chair... [Read More]



More calls to introduce UK genetic discrimination laws

16 February 2006

By BioNews

Appeared in BioNews 346

Nobel prize winner Sir John Sulston has repeated his call for new UK laws to prevent genetic discrimination. He says that when the current moratorium on the use of genetic tests results by insurers runs out, in November 2011, it should be replaced by legislation. Professor Sulston, who is vice-chair of the Human Genetics Commission, made his comments after the issue was raised by an alliance of 45 medical charities, unions, lawyers and scientists. The group, headed by GeneWatch UK, has submitted a report on genetic discrimination to the all-party parliamentary group on disability.

Last year, UK insurers agreed to extend current restrictions on the use of genetic test results until November 2011. A five-year moratorium imposed by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) expired in November 2006. Previously, there had been calls to turn the moratorium into law, mirroring ongoing efforts in the US to pass similar legislation. Sulston says that 'everybody should be treated equitably regardless of their genetic inheritance. By the end of the moratorium in 2011 there will be so much more genetic information about that we are going to have to do something much more robust'.

Sulston's comments followed a parliamentary submission detailing evidence that insurance companies and employers in Australia and the US have used information from genetic tests to discriminate against people. The document raises concerns that information about a person's genetic risk of conditions such as heart disease and breast cancer might affect employer's decisions about recruitment or promotion. 'People should be able to take genetic tests without having to worry about how it's going to affect them financially in the future', said Helen Wallace, deputy director of GeneWatch.

Echoing Sulston's concerns, the 'Joint Statement of Concern Regarding  Genetic Testing in the Workplace' calls upon the Government to introduce laws to 'prevent discrimination by employers and insurers on the basis of genetic test information', and to 'guarantee genetic privacy and to protect the right of people to refuse to undergo genetic testing'. Anna Wood, Policy and Campaigns manager of Breast Cancer Care - one of the charities that backed the submission - said that 'women concerned that they may carry a gene which puts them at high risk of developing breast cancer are likely to be amongst the first to have to weigh the value of having a genetic test against the risk of discrimination'.

The submission coincided with a news report by the Daily Telegraph newspaper, which claimed that the Association of British Insurers (ABI) was expected to apply later this month for permission for its members to ask women if they have been tested for mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes - which confer a high risk of breast and ovarian cancer. However, a statement by the government's Genetics and Insurance Committee (GAIC), which deals with such applications, refuted the story, saying that 'there are currently no applications under consideration by GAIC'. It went on to say that the ABI 'will not be submitting any applications to use predictive genetic tests, including for breast cancer during 2006 and 2007', adding 'if any applications are received in the future then, as part of the review process, the relevant charities will be involved, and will be asked for comments'. A spokesman for the ABI told the BBC news website that the Telegraph's story was 'alarmist, irresponsible and factually incorrect'.

 

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Breast cancer gene insurance risk
BBC News Online | 14 February 2006
 
GeneWatch | 14 February 2006
 
The Daily Telegraph | 15 February 2006
 
The Daily Telegraph | 14 February 2006
 

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

14 May 2007 - by Danielle Hamm 
According to recent news reports, the UK's Association of British Insurers (ABI) may seek permission to use the results of predictive genetic tests for inherited breast and ovarian cancer, to set insurance premiums. Mutated versions of the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 are known to confer a high... [Read More]
29 January 2007 - by MacKenna Roberts 
The proposed Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act 2007 is poised for fast-track consideration through the US Congress. It was reintroduced into the US House of Representatives earlier this month (HR 493), with its prospects for successful passage into law appearing better than similar past attempts. The Act aims... [Read More]
29 March 2006 - by Anne Begg MP 
Genetic testing potentially holds the key to providing many treatments, and possibly even cures, for a whole range of diseases. The knowledge that someone has a genetic condition or propensity may determine lifestyle choices, or help in early detection so that remedial treatment can prevent the symptoms from occurring. As... [Read More]
27 February 2006 - by Dr Alison Stewart 
The last two weeks have seen yet another outcry on the topic of 'genetic discrimination' in insurance. The main thrust of the argument is that because we cannot do anything about our genes it should be illegal to treat us differently on the basis of our genetic risk of death... [Read More]
20 February 2006 - by Dr Helen Wallace 
Last week, in a Joint Statement of Concern, forty-five organisations and individuals expressed their fears about the lack of safeguards to prevent genetic discrimination. The Statement calls on the Government to legislate against the use of genetic test results in employment and insurance. Many European countries have such laws, however... [Read More]

04 November 2005 - by BioNews 
Some Australian insurance companies are discriminating against people who have taken predictive genetic tests, according to the government-funded Genetic Discrimination Project. A survey carried out by the group identified 87 people who have suffered 'specific instances of negative treatment', according to New Scientist magazine. Team leader Kristine Barlow-Stewart reported the... [Read More]
05 September 2005 - by BioNews 
A German government advisory council has recommended a new law to prevent employers from using genetic test results to discriminate against employees, the British Medical Journal reports. However, the National Ethics Council's recommendations have been described as a step backwards by the country's Green Party. All the political parties are... [Read More]
16 May 2005 - by BioNews 
The Australian Government is providing $7.6 million over four years to set up an independent advisory body on human genetics. The move, revealed as part of last week's Budget announcements, follows a key recommendation made by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) in their 2003 report: 'Essentially Yours: The Protection... [Read More]
14 March 2005 - by BioNews 
The current restrictions on the use of genetic test results by UK insurers will be extended until November 2011, the government has announced. A five-year moratorium imposed by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) was due to expire in November 2006. The new agreement forms part of a binding framework... [Read More]
21 February 2005 - by BioNews 
The US Senate has unanimously approved a bill that would ban employers and insurers from using genetic information. Senators voted 98-0 in favour of the bill last Thursday, although it now faces an uncertain future in the House of Representatives. In 2003, the Senate passed a nearly identical bill... [Read More]



HFEA considering egg donation for cloning research

17 February 2006

By BioNews

Appeared in BioNews 346

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology and Authority (HFEA), which regulates fertility treatment and embryo research in the UK, is considering allowing altruistic egg donation for therapeutic cloning research. According to a report in the Times newspaper, the authority may soon approve new rules that will allow women to donate eggs for research aimed at obtaining stem cell from cloned human embryos. However, according to a statement on the HFEA's website, it is first awaiting more information on protection and finance issues before it agrees upon a new policy on gamete donors for research.

The issues surrounding egg donation for embryonic stem cell (ES cell) research have been in the news recently, following the revelation that South Korean scientist Woo Suk Hwang and his team used unethical procedures to obtain eggs for their cloning research - work that has since been shown to be faked. Scientists around the world, including teams in the UK and US, are still hoping to show that it is possible to obtain ES cell-lines from cloned human embryos. However, there is a shortage of eggs for such research, which in the UK can currently only be obtained from women undergoing fertility treatment.

The HFEA has received requests from scientists based in Edinburgh and Newcastle to allow them to ask women to donate eggs solely for stem cell research - so-called 'altruistic' egg donation. They feel it is the best way to allow such work to continue, especially since it would potentially permit scientists to use eggs from younger, fertile donors. But opponents of such a move say that the risks associated with egg donation mean it is unethical to ask women to undergo the procedure unless they are already undergoing fertility treatment.

The Times reported that the HFEA's ethics and law committee has recommended allowing altruistic egg donation, in a document published ahead of an open meeting held on 14 February. The committee said that permitting women to donate their eggs could benefit research, and would enable the donor to feel they had made a positive contribution. However, it also recommended that women should only be allowed to donate if they had completed their families - in case their fertility was affected in any way. It also proposed barring scientists from donating eggs for their own research projects, although it said their friends and family members should be permitted to do so, after receiving counselling to ensure they were acting voluntarily.

Josephine Quintavalle, of the pro-life pressure group Comment on Reproductive Ethics (CORE), told the newspaper that it was 'extraordinary' to 'find the HFEA endorsing donation at a time when scientists are at last acknowledging the significant risks associated with the process'. However, ethicist Ainsley Newson, of the University of Bristol, commented that 'so long as women are made fully aware of [the proposed new rules] and are not put under duress, they should have every opportunity to participate'.

The HFEA says that it has now asked for more information on the issue, which it will use to put together a discussion document ahead of its next public meeting, to be held in May. Dame Suzi Leather, Chair of the HFEA, said: 'We are committed to maintaining a broad consensus on embryo research and it is important that we strike a balance between providing safeguards for patients and the interests of scientists'.

 

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Authority ask for more information on protection and finance before agreeing a new policy for donors for research
HFEA | 15 February 2006
 
BBC News Online | 14 February 2006
 
Donor breakthrough for cloning research
The Times | 14 February 2006
 

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

07 January 2007 - by Heidi Nicholl 
The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has, for the first time, amended a licence for stem cell research to be carried out, which allows women to donate eggs without needing the donation to be linked to ongoing in vitro fertilisation (IVF) or sterilisation procedures. The... [Read More]
21 September 2006 - by Veronica English 
The British Medical Association (BMA)'s Medical Ethics Committee (MEC) recently had a long and fascinating debate about egg donation for research. The debate was much broader than the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA)'s consultation document, looking also at related issues such as payment for donation of other... [Read More]
11 September 2006 - by Dr Kirsty Horsey 
The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has launched a public consultation on the donation of eggs for scientific research purposes. The consultation was announced in May after discussions at an HFEA public meeting failed to reach a conclusion on the issue. It will run... [Read More]
14 August 2006 - by Heidi Nicholl 
A leading bioethicist, Dr Insoo Hyun of Case Western Reserve University, Ohio, US, has called for women to be paid to donate eggs for stem cell research on the same basis that research participants are compensated for taking part in other medical research. In a Nature commentary... [Read More]
31 July 2006 - by Heidi Nicholl 
A controversial scheme to extend the practise of 'egg sharing' has been approved by the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to provide greater numbers of eggs for embryonic stem (ES) cell research. The practise of egg-sharing is currently allowed where a woman may receive discounted... [Read More]

13 February 2006 - by BioNews 
Seoul National University (SNU) has suspended the discredited South Korean scientist Woo Suk Hwang and six other professors in his team from their teaching and research posts. The scientists have yet to be formally punished by SNU, for faking data and breaching ethical standards in their work on human embryonic... [Read More]
13 January 2006 - by BioNews 
UK researchers are seeking permission to use rabbit eggs to create human stem cells for studying motor neurone disease. Professor Chris Shaw, of the Institute of Psychiatry in London, and Professor Ian Wilmut, who led the Edinburgh University team that created Dolly the sheep, are discussing their planned experiments with... [Read More]
09 January 2006 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
For those aiming to develop new, stem-cell based therapies for conditions such as spinal cord injury and diabetes, 2005 will be remembered as the year in which hopes were first raised beyond everyone's expectations - only to be dashed, when apparently groundbreaking research was revealed to be an audacious hoax. The... [Read More]
28 July 2005 - by BioNews 
Professor Ian Wilmut, the pioneering creator of Dolly the sheep, is seeking permission from the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to ask women to donate eggs for cloning experiments in his work on motor neurone disease. Professor Wilmut, who was granted a cloning licence by the HFEA in... [Read More]
04 July 2005 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
In this week's BioNews, we report on the case of a woman set to receive damages after she had a stroke following IVF. The patient, left brain-damaged, had developed a rare side effect of fertility treatment called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). In its most severe form, OHSS can be potentially... [Read More]



US study suggests little demand for social sex selection

17 February 2006

By BioNews

Appeared in BioNews 346

A new study carried out at the University of Illinois in Chicago shows that most people would not choose the sex of their baby, if given the option. The findings, published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, are based on an online survey of 1,197 men and women aged between 18 and 45. Just eight per cent of the participants said they would opt for sex selection using currently available 'sperm sorting' technology, a figure that rose to 18 per cent if it were possible to determine gender simply by taking a pill. Study leader Tarun Jain said the results should 'ease the fears' of those who believe sex selection will become widespread when it is readily available in the US. Sex selection for non-medical reasons is controversial in the US and elsewhere. Both the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists oppose its use. However, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) has said that it supports sex selection for family balancing reasons, provided the methods used are proved to be safe and effective. In the UK, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) ruled in 2003 that parents should not be allowed to choose the sex of their babies.

The sperm sorting technique, developed in 2001, exploits the fact that the chromosome that determines a baby's sex comes from the sperm. Whether a sperm carries an X (female) or Y (male) chromosome affects the amount of DNA it contains, so 'male' and 'female' sperm can be separated on this basis. Microsort, the company that markets the technology, claims that its success rate is 91 per cent for girls, and 76 per cent for baby boys. Patients are required to undergo between three to five cycles of intrauterine insemination, at an average cost of $2,500 (about £1440) per attempt. Only eight per cent of survey respondents said they would opt to use the technique - a figure that rose to 12 per cent if it could be done in only one treatment cycle, and if it were covered by health insurance.

Overall, 77 per cent of respondents who wanted more than one child either said they preferred an equal number of boys and girls, or they had no preference as to the sex of their children. Dr Jain said the findings suggested that 'people still want to leave things up to chance and not rely on science for everything'. The results are in contrast to an earlier study by the group, in which a survey of 561 American women undergoing treatment for infertility showed that 41 per cent would choose the sex of their baby, if sex selection was offered at no additional cost. Jain said the different findings of the two studies were significant, but not surprising. He pointed out that infertile couples may feel they have only one chance to have a child, while the general population assumes the opportunity for more children.

 

SOURCES & REFERENCES
News-Medical.net | 14 February 2006
 
Study: Most won't pick kids' gender
Newsday.com | 14 February 2006
 
Survey: Few Would Choose Their Baby's Sex
Fox News | 15 February 2006
 

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

21 February 2011 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
A Liverpool hospital has said it will investigate allegations that one of its doctors had apparently offered to make arrangements for an undercover reporter posing as a prospective patient to undergo a sex-selection procedure for family balancing abroad... [Read More]
24 January 2011 - by Leo Perfect 
An Australian couple are going to court to fight for their right to choose the sex of their next child. They applied to use IVF with gender selection technology to guarantee a daughter, but an independent bioethics panel rejected their request... [Read More]

07 November 2005 - by BioNews 
A new UK study of peoples' attitudes towards social sex selection has found that 80 per cent believe that parents should not be allowed to choose their baby's sex, even for 'family balancing' reasons. The researchers, based at the Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences Unit at Newcastle University, questioned 48... [Read More]
28 October 2005 - by BioNews 
A new US trial will look at the social effects of allowing parents to choose whether they have a baby girl or boy. The study, based at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, will follow up babies born following the use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to choose... [Read More]
11 April 2005 - by Professor Guido Pennings 
The recommendations of the recent report by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee in the UK have stirred up the discussion on social sex selection. Over the years, the discussion on sex selection has been seriously hampered by the high emotional engagement of the participants. As a consequence... [Read More]
24 March 2005 - by BioNews 
The UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee (STC) is deeply divided over its inquiry into Human Reproductive Technologies and the Law. Only half of the ten committee members put their names to the summary report, published today alongside a Special Report detailing the committee's disagreements. The dissenting MPs... [Read More]
21 March 2005 - by BioNews 
A survey of 561 American women undergoing treatment for infertility shows that 41 per cent would choose the sex of their baby, if sex selection was offered at no additional cost. However, it seems that any fears about sex selection causing gender imbalances are unfounded, say the researchers, as the... [Read More]



Fewer multiple births after IVF in Australia and New Zealand

17 February 2006

By BioNews

Appeared in BioNews 346

A new report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reveals that the number of babies born after fertility treatments such as IVF has almost tripled in the last ten years. An accompanying drop in the numbers of twins and triplets born after assisted conception has lead to fewer premature births, and fewer babies with a low birth weight being born. The report, entitled 'Assisted Reproduction Technology in Australia and New Zealand 2003', shows that multiple pregnancies after fertility treatment have dropped from 19.4 per cent in 1994 to 18.1 per cent in 2003.

The report shows that overall, 39,720 treatment cycles were attempted in Australia and New Zealand during 2003, which resulted in 7479 liveborn babies - compared to 2801 infants in 1994. The proportion of babies born with a low birthweight was 21.8 per cent, down from 26.4 per cent in 2000. Professor Michael Chapman, spokesman for the AIHW's National Perinatal Statistics Unit at the University of New South Wales, says the drop in multiple pregnancies reflects a decrease in the number of embryos being transferred per treatment cycle. 'In 1994, three or more embryos were transferred in 48.7 per cent of embryo transfer cycles compared with 4.3 per cent of transfer cycles in 2003', he said.

The report also confirms that younger women undergoing fertility treatment have a better chance of success than older women. 'When we look at the ages of women who used their own fresh embryos, women aged 25 to 29 years achieved more successful outcomes, with 35.1 per cent of embryo transfer cycles achieving a live delivery', said Chapman, adding 'women aged 40 to 44 years had a success rate of 9.5 per cent'.

Professor Chapman said that the increase in success rates was down to improvements in the techniques for transferring embryos. He also said that 'the laboratories are getting closer and closer to mimicking what happens in a woman's body, by trying to replicate the dark, warm, undisturbed environment of the woman's uterus'.

The report also showed that the number of frozen embryos stored in Australia and New Zealand has quadrupled in the last decade, to over 100,000. Chapman said this increase was down to more women becoming pregnant on their first IVF attempt. Although some will be used in future treatment cycles, Chapman says other couples are simply paying storage fees every year to avoid making a decision about their surplus embryos. He suggested 'a more proactive approach', in which clinics would contact couples as more embryos approached the ten year storage limit recommended by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

 

SOURCES & REFERENCES
AIHW | 16 February 2006
 
Embryo mountain means hard choice for couples
The Sydney Morning Herald | 16 February 2006
 
IVF success spreads the joy of parenthood
The Australian | 16 February 2006
 



Scientists search for genetic influences on cancer

20 February 2006

By BioNews

Appeared in BioNews 346

The US National Cancer Institute (NCI) has launched a new project to identify genetic factors that influence the risk of prostate and breast cancer. The $14 million 'Cancer Genetic Markers of Susceptibility' (CGEMS) initiative aims to identify common genetic variations associated with the diseases. The scientists will first look at 2,500 DNA samples from men with prostate cancer and unaffected individuals. Later, the three-year study will focus on breast cancer.

Genetic mutations that greatly increase the risk of cancer have already been identified, but these familial cases of the disease account for just a few per cent of all cancers. Most cases of cancer are thought to be caused by complex interactions between genetic factors, and other non-genetic triggers. The CGEMS study - like several other ongoing projects aiming to tease apart the influence of genetic and other factors on common illnesses - will focus on 'single-letter' changes in the DNA code, called SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms).

One of the main goals of CGEMS is to identify common genetic variations that affect a person's risk of developing cancer by increasing or decreasing a person's susceptibility to environmental or lifestyle factors. The project will look at SNPs scattered throughout the entire human genome, work that will be carried out by scientists based at the San Diego-based firm Illumina. Once identified, the SNPs found to be associated with breast or prostate cancer will be scrutinised further, in a series of large, population-based studies.

Elias Zerhouni, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), said that 'the mapping of the human genome opened new frontiers of science'. He added that projects like CGEMS 'will expand our knowledge and understanding of the genetics of disease'. NCI Deputy Director Anna D Barker said that the CGEMS project 'promises to provide a needed database to support the development of novel strategies for the early detection and prevention of these diseases'.

 

SOURCES & REFERENCES
NIH News | 13 February 2006
 
NIH to study genetics of breast, prostate cancer
The Baltimore Sun | 14 February 2006
 

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

10 April 2007 - by Stuart Scott 
Three teams of scientists have uncovered a number of genetic variants, which can powerfully predict a carrier's risk of developing prostate cancer. One team based jointly at the University Of California and Harvard Medical School, one from the US National Institutes of Health and an Icelandic company... [Read More]
11 May 2006 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
Scientists based in Iceland, the US and Sweden have discovered a common genetic variation linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer. The team, based at Icelandic firm deCODE genetics, have found that men who inherit the variant have a 60 per cent increased risk of... [Read More]

 

Published by the Progress Educational Trust
RISK ASSESSMENT:
BREAST CANCER, PREDICTION AND SCREENING
FREE public event in central London, 6.30pm on Thursday 8 May 2014 - find out more HERE

ANNIVERSARY APPEAL
Please donate HERE, so that the Progress Educational Trust can continue throughout 2014 (and beyond) while keeping BioNews FREE for you to read

The Progress Educational Trust was shortlisted for the Charity Times Awards 2011

Advertise your products and services HERE - click for further details

Good Fundraising Code

Become a Friend of PET HERE, and give the Progress Educational Trust a regular donation