Jewish Women Declare Victory on Supreme Court BRCA Gene Mutation Case

Barrier To Testing for 'Jewish' Cancer Gene Is Removed

courtesy of Lisa schlager

By Anne Cohen

Published June 13, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Joanna Rudnick, a breast cancer survivor and BRCA-1 gene carrier, turned 39 today — and got one heck of a birthday present.

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that human genes cannot be patented, although it reiterated that synthetic or altered genes may be subject to patent law. In other words, human DNA cannot be patented without being altered in some way.

Advocates called the decision a major victory.

“My life has exploded over the Myriad ruling,” she gushed on the phone. “This is an incredible birthday present. It is a victory. The barrier for women to get tested for BRCA 1 and 2 will now be gone. “

Rudnick is one thousands of Jewish women to be affected by this ruling: Ashkenazi Jews are much more likely to carry the BRCA mutation than the general population.

The court case pitted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) against Myriad Genetics Inc., the biopharmaceutical company that owned the patents on the BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 genes, whose mutations are linked to increased hereditary risk for breast and ovarian cancer.

Writing for the court, Justice Clarence Thomas explained: “A naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated,” he said. “It is undisputed that Myriad did not create or alter any of the genetic information encoded in the BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 genes.” “Groundbreaking, innovative or even brilliant discovery does not by itself satisfy the criteria” for patent eligibility, he added.

For Arthur Caplan, head of the Division of Bioethics at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, the Supreme Court made the right decision.

“Immediately [the decision] means that testing should become more available for breast cancer and ovarian cancer using the Myriad test at a lower price,” explained. “Longer term this decision throws into a tizzy a huge number of existing patents,” Caplan said. “The other fallout [is still] uncertain. It’s clear that you can take [out] patents, you just have to take them on products, not on genes.

Sue Friedman, founder and executive director of FORCE: Facing Our Risk Of Cancer Empowered, agreed. As a 17-year cancer survivor and a BRCA-2 carrier, Friedman was elated.

“Personally for me, for my family, for my relatives, this is significant, but also for people who may have a mutation and have not been able to get access to that information. They are part of that extended family that we’ve built through FORCE,” she said.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.