Breast Cancer Action Sues to End Gene Patenting

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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CONTACT:
Angela Wall 415.243.9301 ext. 16

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Lawsuit Seeks Increased Access to Information for Breast Cancer Patients

SAN FRANCISCO, CA—Breast Cancer Action (BCA) is challenging the legality of patenting human “breast cancer genes.” BCA is joining the American Civil Liberties Union in suing Myriad Genetics (a private biotechnology company based in Utah), that currently holds the patent on the two human genes known as BRCA1 and BRCA2.

The BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are present in every human. However, people with certain genetic mutations on these genes are at an increased risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. Myriad holds exclusive rights to these genes and their mutations and to the research performed on them. Testing for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations can only be performed at Myriad labs and currently costs over $3,000.

Since 1998, when BRCA1 & 2 were first patented, BCA has maintained that the patenting of human genes interferes with patients’ access to genetic testing and medical care.

“The time has finally arrived for the courts to decide who owns our genes,” said Barbara Brenner, executive director of Breast Cancer Action.

When one company controls all the testing, less information and resources are available to both patients and researchers. Women unable to afford the $3,500 fee are prevented from access to the test; women seeking second opinions on any results they might receive have nowhere to go; and women of African, Hispanic, or Asian decent are at a significant disadvantage because they disproportionately receive ambiguous results when tested by Myriad.

“There are so many injustices and inequities in breast cancer,” Brenner said. “The time has come to address them in all their forms—as they affect genetic risk, as well as social, political, and economic realities. This case is an important first step.”

BCA joins this litigation in hopes that it will open doors to better research and information, and ultimately better health care for women regardless of their economic situation or their racial background.

The case, Association for Molecular Pathology, et al. v. U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, et al., is filed in the U.S District Court for the Southern District of New York.

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