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.
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“We’re very excited, over the moon,” she added. “This will really open up the ability of other tests to be developed. This is a strong message and a victory for the community that we serve.”

For Lisa Schlager, an official with FORCE, this news was a long time coming.

“I’m thrilled, I feel like this has been an ongoing battle for the past two years, and there have been so many question marks and so many opinions on how this might hinder research,” she said. “I think that nothing that happens naturally in our bodies should be patentable, and the Supreme Court obviously agrees. “

Schlager, 46, pointed out that in addition to lowering costs, this decision would potentially enable genetic clinics and counseling services that already provide testing to also test for the BRCA mutations. This especially relevant in the Jewish community, where testing for common genetic diseases like Tay Sachs is a well-developed and organized practice.

“We are big advocates of genetic counseling and an ideal place would be a Jewish genetics service that already does testing for the community,” she said. “We would love to see some of the genetic services offer this as part of their genetic testing routine for families. It could be very useful information for family planning.”

As for the partial ruling, Schlager said it was expected. “If a company develops a test that will isolate DNA certainly they should be able to patent that. What doesn’t make sense to me is to be able to patent something that occurs naturally.”

But though the ruling has been seen as a partial victory for Myriad by some, Ellen Matloff, research scientist in genetics and director of cancer genetic counseling at the Yale School of Medicine, that is not really the case.

“It is really misunderstanding the ruling to think this is a partial victory for Myriad. Believe me, its not,” Matloff wrote in an email. “This means that they have lost their patents and their exclusive monopoly. This means that other labs will immediately be offering BRCA testing. I expect that within the next 3 months. And the race is on for cheaper, faster, better testing in the long run — I expect this within the year, if not sooner.

“In the longer run, today is a huge victory for patients because research in the BRCA world will now open up,” she added. “[You can] expect the pace of research to accelerate 20 fold within the next 2 years.”

But as Joanna Rudnick pointed out, the fight for hereditary cancer awareness is far from over.

“We need to get the data back,” she explained. “That’s the next movement I’m going to get involved with. Myriad has not been publishing data [about BRCA mutations] since 2006. It’s in our hands to get that data out there and work with clinicians and reseachers.”

“I feel that justice has been done today,” she said. “But I feel there’s a lot more work to be done. We can’t stop here. “


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