Cancer patient stunned by gene ruling


A breast cancer patient says she's stunned by a Federal Court ruling that genes can be patented and says research into the disease will suffer as a result.

Allowing corporations to own patents over human genes is morally and ethically wrong, the Queensland cancer patient at the centre of a legal battle says.

The full bench of the Federal Court on Friday dismissed an appeal in a test case between Cancer Voices Australia and the US-based biotech company Myriad Genetics.

The company has a patent over the gene known as BRCA1, which is linked to an increased risk of hereditary breast and ovarian cancers.

Lawyers in the test case, acting on behalf of Logan cancer patient Yvonne D'Arcy, had argued in court that genetic material is a product of nature, even when isolated from the body, and is therefore unpatentable.

But the Federal Court in Sydney dismissed the challenge on Friday, in a decision Ms D'Arcy says will hurt cancer research.

Law firm Maurice Blackburn began the test case on behalf of Ms D'Arcy in 2010.

The 68-year-old, who has had hormonal breast cancer twice, says she is fighting for anyone with a genetic predisposition to cancers and other diseases.

"(The patent) means that you can't have research done on the gene, because Myriad owns it," she told reporters in Brisbane.

"You have to get their approval to work on it, and they won't allow that."

Ms D'Arcy said she was struggling to understand the court's finding that companies could continue to control human genetic material.

"It's something that is in every living being. I don't think any private company should own part of a human body."

She said the patent also allows the corporation to charge exorbitant rates of up to $3,000 for patients who wish to be tested for the BRCA1 mutation.

Previously, a geneticist could perform the test for around $500.

Ms D'Arcy said she would wait for her legal team to explore avenues of appeal in the high court.

"I believe in what I'm doing, I believe it's right," she said.

"If I didn't think it's right I wouldn't be doing this. I'd be hiding in my unit in Logan. I'm passionate about it."

AAP is seeking comment from Myriad Genetics.

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