Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence

Memorandum 33

Submission from Cancer Research UK

  1.  Cancer Research UK welcomes the Science and Technology' Committee's investigations into the Government's proposals for the regulation of the creation of animal/human hybrid and chimera embryos for research purposes. We hope to see this build on the findings of the inquiry in 2005, where the Committee concluded that this research was ethically acceptable and should be regulated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).

  2.  Cancer Research UK is the world's largest non-governmental organisation dedicated to cancer research. We are committed to tackling cancer by understanding its causes and investigating how best to diagnose, treat and prevent it. We also fund research aimed at providing the best possible support and information to cancer patients and their families.

  3.  The use of chimeric embryos has an important role to play in the advancement of medical research. The UK's positive approach to the regulation of stem cell research to date has ensured the development of techniques, and resources that have strengthened the UK's reputation as a global leader in medical research.

  4.  While much cancer research uses adult stem cells, we believe that many patients suffering from serious diseases, including cancer, could potentially benefit from carefully regulated research on embryonic stem cells. Human chimeric embryos have the potential to provide a very valuable resource for this research. Future stem cell research could also uncover ways of improving outcomes after treatment for cancer, potentially providing us with the ability to regenerate or replace normal tissue following surgical removal of cancerous tissue, or its destruction by chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

  5.  Cancer Research UK is conscious of the public's concerns and acknowledges that there are important ethical issues to be considered in sanctioning on the creation of hybrid animal/human embryos for research. We strongly believe that strict governance of this work is fundamental to its success, and that the current HFEA regulation is sufficient to do so. We are disappointed that the HFEA have stopped licensing this research, pending the results of their consultation.

  6.  We hope that the Committee will recommend to the Government that it is in the best interests of the public and researchers for the HFEA to resume licensing this research, as the current legislation is adequate to regulate the creation of animal/human hybrid embryos for research purposes.

January 2007

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