California Couple Sues Fertility Clinic for 'Knowingly' Implanting Embryo With CDH1 Gene Mutation That Causes Gastric Cancer

A couple, who underwent vitro fertilization at HRC Fertility in the hopes to protect their children from deadly cancer cells, is suing the clinic for allegedly implanting an embryo with the CDH1 gene mutation.

This comes despite Jason and Melissa Diaz having told the clinic that they wanted to have children without this specific mutation. Melissa has the BRCA-1 mutation, which increases her risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer, while Jason has the CDH1 gene mutation, which makes it highly likely for him to develop hereditary diffuse gastric cancer.

Now, their one-year-old son has the CDH1 rare genetic mutation that Jason has. The couple is heartbroken.


Wanted to Avoid Passing on the Gene

Melissa and Jason didn't want their children to face the risk of cancers. "Never in a million years did I think this could happen. We are heartbroken about what our beloved son will have to go through because of HRC's conduct and lies," Melissa told a press conference. Jason, who was diagnosed with hereditary diffuse gastric cancer and underwent a gastrectomy (full stomach removal), said it's extremely difficult.

According to the lawsuit, he has two aunts who died of gastric cancer while in their 40s. The couple opted for HRC Fertility and Dr Bradford Kolb, who is international known for his expertise in complex reproductive problems. The clinic's website boasts that patients have travelled from around the world for its services.

The couple, as per the lawsuit, informed the doctor that they wanted to avoid passing on the genetic mutations that put them at higher risk for developing cancer. They met Kolb in December 2018. And Melissa underwent two separate egg-retrieval procedures. The HRC Fertility's embryology laboratory created five embryos. The document highlighted that Melissa miscarried, in August 2020, a clear embryo, with neither, the CDH1 mutation, nor the BRCA-1 gene was implanted.


The remaining embryos were mutation free. The lawsuit claimed that the embryos either carried the CDH1 or the BRCA-1 gene. The couple chose to implant a male embryo with the BRCA-1 gene on their next attempt – as it was less likely a boy would develop breast cancer. They had a baby in September 2021. And when they tried for a second baby in July 2022, they discovered that their baby boy carried both the stomach and breast cancer genetic mutations.

Admits Mistake

The lawsuit states that the embryo report also contained handwritten notes highlighting that the transplant carried the CDH1-gene mutation. Melissa asked for an explanation. But there was no straight reply. The HRC Fertility finally admitted that it had made a serious mistake and asked the couple for a sit-down.


However, a spokeswoman for HRC said the Diaz family conducted genetic testing and counseling outside of HRC fertility and with an outside party. "They wished to have a male embryo transferred, which we carried out according to the family's explicit wishes and in accordance with the highest level of care." The fertility center stands by the professionalism and expertise of its medical staff.

It should be noted that HRC Fertility, owned by Jinxin Fertility, and Kolb were sued by a same-sex couple in 2022 for wrongly implanting a female embryo in their surrogate. They wanted a male embryo.