Threat to breast cancer testing after controversial patent ruling

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.

The patent office's ruling has given Myriad rights over two mutations that are frequently detected in Ashkenazi Jews, which means that any genetics centre that uses the BRCA1 test – even if it developed its own test – will have to take this into consideration.

Professor Gert Matthijs, a human geneticist at the University of Leuven in Belgium, said that the ruling means that Myriad could in principle claim infringement of its patent even if a doctor is merely trying to find out what sort of BRCA1 mutation a woman has inherited. He said the issuing of the BRCA1 gene patent to Myriad in 2001 led to a monopoly that was bad for medicine because it dissuaded other companies from developing rival tests.

A spokesman for Myriad Genetics said: "It is important for us to point out that research activities with the patented technologies are not limited in any way by Myriad and are encouraged through subsidised costs for testing from the company to researchers."

Sarah Rawlings, head of policy at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said she hoped the patent decision would not negatively impact on genetic testing services currently available in the UK.

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
News
people
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

    £32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

    £45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

    £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

    Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

    £25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

    Day In a Page

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
    Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

    Scarred by the bell

    The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
    Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

    Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

    Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
    The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

    The Locked Room Mysteries

    As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
    Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

    How I made myself Keane

    Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

    Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
    A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

    Wear in review

    A look back at fashion in 2014
    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

    Might just one of them happen?
    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?