gene

Supreme Court Gene Patent Decision: What It Means For You

Last week, the US Supreme Court ruled on a significant gene patenting case.  The issue before the Court was whether or not a company’s patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes could be upheld. The landmark ruling states that a gene is a naturally occurring product of nature, and therefore cannot be patented. The Supreme Court’s ruling has important implications for clinicians, cancer patients, and individuals who are at higher risk of a BRCA mutation than the average population either by personal or family history. Many say that the Court’s ruling will increase access to genetic testing by eliminating the monopoly on the test, which will thereby reduce the cost of testing significantly and allow for consumer choice.  For many years, the American College of Medical Genetics has asserted that gene patents “stand firmly in the way of good patient care, interfere with informed decision-making by patients, impede training of the next generation of lab professionals and restrict the flow of information that is critical to advancing medical knowledge and better medical care accessible to all.”  Therefore, some anticipate that this decision will better enable appropriate and more affordable testing, particularly for those who are uninsured or underinsured. 
 
Carrie Horton, MS, CGC
Director of Genetic Counseling
West Clinic
 
Brad Somer, MD
Medical Oncology
West Clinic

Supreme Court Rules on Gene Patents

This morning, the Supreme Court rendered its decision in the gene patenting case, holding that “genes and the information they encode are not patent eligible under §101 [of The Patent Act] simply because they have been isolated from the surrounding genetic material.”  The Court noted that Myriad Genetics, the laboratory that currently offers testing for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations found in 1 in 40 Ashkenazi Jews, did not create or alter either the genetic information encoded in the BRCA1 and BCRA2 genes or the genetic structure of the DNA.  Though the Court noted that Myriad found an important and useful gene, it acknowledged that groundbreaking, innovative, or even brilliant discovery does not by itself satisfy the §101 inquiry and is therefore not subject to patent protection.

What does the Court’s decision mean for thousands of women and families at risk of breast or ovarian cancer or considering genetic counseling or testing? 

Call us at Sharsheret or chat live with our staff genetic counselor.  Thousands of women, men, and families reach out to us for support and information about cancer genetics.  We’ll walk you through your options, and connect you to others who have done the same.

BRCA, Boys, and Boobs

Oh dating! People say it's fun, but is it really? The butterflies, bad dates, labels, unreturned phone calls. I would call it hard, to say the least. When you've tested positive for the BRCA gene at 24, dating is even more challenging. I kept asking myself, who would want to date me with my increased risk for developing cancer? This is where I was about two years ago.

I met Dovid on a blind date and entered the experience with a ton of preconceived notions. I assumed no guy would want to date a BRCA positive girl. It took me almost 3 months to tell him about it. I built it up to be this undefeatable and overwhelming situation that he had every right to walk away from.

Boy was I was wrong! He took everything in stride. He told me about how he lost his mom to breast cancer, and how he thought I was making good decisions. He tackled every aspect with me, together, and made me laugh along the way. He was there with me and pushed me to strive for better doctors and better outcomes. He helped me remember all the other things that make up who I am; sarcasm, Harry Potter, brightly colored sneakers, and Scrabble, not just BRCA. Things that make me Amy.

Dovid showed me that he loved all of me, even the parts that I assumed he wouldn't. I learned an important lesson: Don't assume - it really gets your nowhere. Accept BRCA as a part of your life, but don't let it define you. There is so much more to life that's in store. At the age of 27, the night before the second surgery of my prophylactic mastectomy, Dovid proposed. I got my fairytale. I was fortunate to find Dovid, who supported me through my experience, and I’m excited to join Sharsheret’s national Peer Support Network so I can give back and support other Jewish women dealing with BRCA.

Sharsheret: Serving Jewish Women with Breast Cancer

It has been a great pleasure and distinct honor to be involved with Sharsheret for the past decade. I care for a large number of young Orthodox Jewish women with breast cancer.  In the pre-Sharsheret era, many of my patients felt very isolated, frightened, and unable to connect with “experienced” patients who had already walked in their shoes.   It seemed a paradox to me that despite their deep faith and dedication to Judaism, many women were unable to receive support from their community due to their concerns about stigmatization and confidentiality.  There was a great deal of misinformation and lack of understanding particularly relating to the Askenazi “Jewish” breast cancer gene. With the birth of Sharsheret, I was able to witness, first hand, the enormous culturally sensitive support that my new patients could receive.  They now can be fully supported by peers and receive medically correct information in a caring way. I have been pleased to be a member of the Sharsheret Medical Advisory Board since 2003. I am firmly committed to help expand the work and reach of this wonderful organization so as many patients as possible can be helped. 

By: Sheldon Feldman, MD, Chief, Breast Surgery Section at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia, Sharsheret Medical Advisory Board Member