The recent ruling by the Supreme Court on patenting genes brings to mind Angelina Jolie. This may seem to be a strange analogy but it is relevant.
While women with mutations in the genes BRCA1 or BRCA2 are much more likely to be diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer, less than one percent of women actually have the mutation (according to the National Cancer Institute). This means most women do not need testing. The diagnostic test offered by the company who claimed the patent for those genes cost $3,340.
While the decision by Angelina Jolie to be tested given her risk was prudent, for most women, costs could be an impeding factor—even if they have insurance. And, for 99% of the women who could actually make the investment, it would be a waste.
The importance of the Supreme Court ruling is to allow more companies to find tests based on these and other genes at lower costs and expand research capability.
Hopefully, some day there will be tests offered that allow more women to be tested at lower costs. More importantly, perhaps by allowing more scientists the opportunity to do research using these genes, there won’t be a need for tests, because there will be a cure.
This post was written by Julie Stanish.
Copyright DC Cancer Consortium 2013