Updated on 24 June 2013
The rush for breast cancer gene testing has just begun
The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that about 30 percent breast cancer cases can be avoided if the cancer is detected in the early stages. About 7.6 million people across the globe lose their lives to breast cancer each year. With these staggering figures only rising with each passing year, it is not a surprise that many private healthcare companies have jumped into action post the US Supreme Court verdict.
The verdict sure has taken a middle ground, making no one a winner, but has effectively ended the 20 year long dominion of one company that had a way of predicting one's susceptibility of breast and ovarian cancer. For a long time, the BRCA test being offered by Utah based molecular diagnostics company Myriad Genetics was the only test in the world that could ‘legally' test for two major gene mutations and could predict the chances of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.
While Myriad is claiming no damage post the verdict, the genomics industry has unanimously welcomed the decision of the highest court in the US. "The cost of genetic testing should come down considerably," Dr Harry Ostrer, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Yeshiva University in New York, and a plaintiff in the case said after the case. Dr Ostrer further noted that there were about 4,000 gene-related patents that can now be challenged, and he predicted that additional tests for heart conditions and neuromuscular diseases will become available.
Merely hours after the US Supreme Court verdict was announced, two companies and two academic labs came forward to offer breast cancer genetic testing service for the common man. Myriad losing its core patent rights has proved to be a boon for the civil society in more ways than one.
While Myriad's BRACAnalysis test would cost about $3,300 without insurance, those who've began making forward strides in the same market claim that the cost of the test would drop drastically because the actual cost to the company for this test has been $200. "Many academic labs, including our own, will soon be offering panel tests for dozens, or even hundreds of genes, for the same price Myriad historically charged for just two genes," Kenneth Offit, chief of the clinical genetics service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center told the New York Times.