Battle is set over test for hereditary breast cancer gene

A Utah genetic lab’s monopoly on testing for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer is being challenged by researchers at the Yale Cancer Center and other institutions that say it’s preventing other screenings that could save lives.

The Connecticut news site, (Connecticut Health Investigative Team) has just posted an important story about the actions swirling around Myriad, based in Salt Lake City, which has performed close to 1 million BRAC analysis tests. The researchers say that the test fails to detect “a significant proportion of BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations,” and that it requires another – expensive – test, which is often not covered by insurance.

Hispanic women may be at particularly high risk for this mutation, according to the story.

A hearing has been scheduled before the U.S. Supreme Court that challenges Myriad’s right to patent genes as well as to set prices “that ‘lock out’ some women from being able to afford the test.”

The ACLU and the Public Patent Foundation are among the 20 plaintiffs who represent more than 150,000 parties in the challenge, according to the C-HIT story.

This is an interesting look at a number of provocative issues — No. 1 may be: how can a company own a gene? — that we will no doubt hear more about as the genetics age deepens.