Breast Cancer Action Wins: SCOTUS Overturns Human Gene Patents

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June 13th 2013
Contact: Angela Wall, Communications Director
(415) 243-9301

Breast Cancer Action Wins: SCOTUS Overturns Human Gene Patents

SAN FRANCISCO, CA–Breast Cancer Action (BCAction), the respected watchdog of the breast cancer movement, celebrates a landmark victory at the Supreme Court with today’s ruling that patents on DNA are invalid. BCAction joined genetic counselors, researchers, and individual patients in this historic case challenging bio-tech giant Myriad Genetics’ patents on the BRCA1 &2 genes, commonly referred to as the “breast cancer genes.” The case, first filed in 2009, was argued before the Court by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in April.

With today’s ruling, BCAction has won a watershed health victory for women. BCAction Executive Director Karuna Jaggar, called the ruling “a tremendous victory for women with a known or suspected inherited risk of breast cancer. Breast Cancer Action, our members and supporters have experienced firsthand the harms of Myriad’s monopoly on the BRCA genes. Today, the Court righted a wrong and has put patients’ health before corporate profits.”

“The importance of this ruling is far-reaching for breast cancer and for all of us who care about corporate control of our genes. In the fast-paced, ever-changing landscape of cancer research, access to genomic information is vital,” Jaggar stated.

“One of the single greatest barriers to breast cancer research, improved testing, new diagnostic tools and targeted therapies related to the BRCA genes was today struck down,” said Jaggar. “Women will now have access to new tests, at lower cost, and will be able for the first time to get second opinions.”

While the Court ruled that genetic DNA is not patentable, the finding that complementary DNA (“cDNA”) may be patentable does not diminish the impact for patients. Laboratories can conduct genetic testing without using cDNA and this means that Myriad no longer holds a monopoly on the BRCA genes and all naturally occurring variations and mutations of these human genes.

Myriad’s patents on the BRCA genes gave them exclusive rights to genetic testing to determine increased risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer, as well as some other cancers. “This ruling ends Myriad’s monopoly,” Jaggar stated.

Breast Cancer Action has a strong reputation for effective corporate campaigns. Jaggar stated: “Today’s ruling puts corporations on notice. Breast Cancer Action has always worked to shift the balance of power from corporate profits to public health. We work to meet the needs of women living with and at risk of breast cancer and this decision does just that: both for women today and for future generations of women.”


Breast Cancer Action ( is a national non-profit education and advocacy organization refuses to accept corporate funding from companies or organizations that profit from or contribute to the breast cancer epidemic.

This entry was posted in BCA News, Press Releases.