Updated on 24 June 2013
The first genetic mapping of an Indian took place in 2009, in the country's capital New Delhi by scientists at the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology. In the years since then, many private laboratories across the country's geography have emerged that offer personalized and individual DNA readings.
Director of the National Institute of Biomedical Genomics (NIBG), Professor Partha P Majumder believes that in spite of the high costs involved, it is a must for those in the high risk group to take the test. Speaking to BioSpectrum Asia, he said, "For any woman in the high risk group, with a family history of either a mother or a sister who have battled Breast Cancer, undergoing the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic tests is a must. There are treatment regimes to overcome the disease once the tests are done. The prices are artificially jacked up because of the patenting issues."
In Australia on the other hand, about five percent of the population carries the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which increases their risk of developing breast cancer between 40-to-85 percent. Clinical geneticist at Brisbane Genetics, Dr Michael Gattas, has said that the availability of the procedure varies across Australia. "BRCA1 and BRCA2 testing is not subsidized by Medicare, so much of this testing is done through the public hospital system, which means it's funded through state health departments," he said. The test that is done privately here costs about $1,650. Interestingly, here the test is offered for free in familial cancer centers, if a person meets all the suitable criteria for testing. Further, once a mutation has been identified in a family member, other members can be testing for much cheaper costs.
Explaining further, Professor Geoff Lindeman, head, Medical Oncology, RMH Familial Cancer Center and joint head, Breast Cancer Laboratory, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, said on his website that about five percent of all breast cancers are hereditary, and can involve the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. "That is why it is important to look for special features that suggest risk. In our community the risk of carrying a gene is relatively rare at about 1:800 for each of the mutations," he added.
The National University Cancer Institute, Singapore, on the other hand claims that the test there costs from $2,500-to-$5,000. At this institute, the cost of the test is about $2,000-to-$3,500, depending on the overseas laboratory used. "The results take about three months to get back from laboratories in Australia or US. There are no labs here patented to do the gene testing," the officials explained on their website.