Threat to Breast Cancer Testing after Controversial Patent Ruling

Article excerpt

Warning that American company's victory could make procedure more expensive

TESTING FOR breast cancer could become more difficult and expensive to carry out following a controversial ruling by the European Patent Office that has given an American company rights over a key test for breast cancer.

In a long-running dispute over a test based on the breast cancer gene BRCA1, the European Patent Office ruled in favour of giving Myriad Genetics intellectual property rights over its test for some of the genetic mutations that can lead to breast cancer.

Although the ruling has not given Myriad all the rights it originally applied for, senior clinical geneticists believe that the decision may allow the company to claim royalties for tests developed by other scientists - and as a result lead to fewer tests.

"The fact is these tests are being done and I would very much regret it if they stopped because Myriad put cease-and-desist orders on them. They could do that. We've always been looking over our shoulders to see if Myriad is coming," said Dr Rob Elles, chairman of the British Society for Human Genetics.

About 13 per cent of women develop breast cancer but if they have inherited a faulty version of the BRCA1 gene their risk can jump to 85 per cent.

If women test positive for a BRCA1 mutation they can be offered prophylactic surgery to remove the breast tissue that is at risk A negative result usually means they have a normal risk of breast cancer. …