The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recently filed a lawsuit stating that patents on two human genes associated with breast and ovarian cancer are unconstitutional and invalid. The patents are owned by Myriad Genetics and the University of Utah Research Foundation. The ACLU is arguing that patenting the genes limits valuable research on this important health issue.
More than 192,000 U.S. women receive breast cancer diagnoses every year, and about 5 to 10 percent of those cases are a hereditary form of the disease, according to the National Cancer Institute. Mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 — short for breast cancer 1 and breast cancer 2 — are involved in many cases of hereditary breast and ovarian cancers, the institute said. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are the genes patented by Myriad and others.
The ACLU states that “Myriad’s monopoly on the BRCA genes makes it impossible for women to access other tests or get a second opinion about their results, and allows Myriad to charge a high rate for their tests – over $3,000, which is too expensive for some women to afford.”