Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Angelina Jolie and the BRCA Battle

Saw the news this morning about Angelina Jolie.  Double mastectomy as a prophylactic against probable breast cancer.  BRCA testing found her at major risk for developing both breast and ovarian cancer.

Thank goodness she can afford this--both the testing and the surgeries.  Thanks to runaway greed and a political party bent on undoing any sort of Universal Health, most American women can't.

I don't know a lot about Angelina Jolie.  What I do know is filtered through sensationalizing media, so who knows who she really is, what she's really like?  Regardless of who she might be in the privacy of her own home, I believe she will take this head on and come out the winner.  Because she just strikes me as that kind.

My hope?  That Ms. Jolie will use her prodigious resources to go after the mega-corporations that hold patents (PATENTS!) on the human genes known to be involved in the development of cancers.

That's right.  There are corporations that hold patents on human genes.  Which is, as far as I'm concerned, utter crap.  In fact, it interferes with people's receiving appropriate testing and treatment for potentially deadly diseases, and, as such, should be illegal.

Yeah, the words "crime against humanity" come to mind.

 In a nutshell, here's the problem (aside from the fact that patenting human genes is like patenting coal or clouds--you didn't MAKE those things, you didn't CREATE them):  by patenting these genes, these corporations have made it impossible for other companies to develop and implement tests.  Which eliminates a patient's ability to seek a second opinion or alternate testing, AND enables the corporations to keep the price of testing prohibitively high (which they have--thousands of dollars a pop for a test that costs them only a couple hundred).  This makes testing for things like the BRCA gene completely unworkable for many women--women who are uninsured, women who are underinsured, women whose insurance won't cover the test because they don't meet their insurer's criterion for testing.  Plus, there are other tests that can catch cases missed by the BRCA gene test, but those can't be used  because--can you guess--they violate the patent.

This whole mess is before the Supreme Court, being hammered out by a body I don't trust to be as impartial and as intelligent as I always believed the SCOTUS should be.  Here, take a glance at this Amicus Curiae (Friend of the Court) brief filed in support of the petitioners (the folks looking to do away with human genetic patents).

And then take a look at this article I first came across last month.

So much for "do no harm."  So much for science being some pure and wonderful thing meant to better our lives.  No, it's about turning the maximum buck, probably for stockholders.

I wish all the best to Angelina Jolie.  Like I said, she's never been favorite, but I don't doubt her strength, and I hope she uses it to target these corporations that deny women the full range of life-saving testing.  If anyone can do it, I think she can.

In case you're wondering, yeah, this is all a little personal for me.  I think it is for all women, really, but I did have an Aunt who developed breast cancer.  I was told that the cancer was due to her life-long alcoholism, and yes, breast cancer and alcohol consumption are hugely related, but there's always been that fear, that little voice in the back of my head wondering if that's all it was.  No way for me to know, though--my insurance won't cover BRCA testing just because my Aunt had breast cancer.  No, she has to have had bi-lateral breast cancer or breast cancer AND ovarian cancer.

So this is personal.  If I could, I'd be tested, so that answer could help my sister, her daughter, and any children my son has.


We planted the tomatoes, cukes, peppers, and flowers this past weekend.  It was 80 degrees.  Last night, the temps dropped below freezing.  Unbelievable.  It doesn't appear to have hurt them, but we'll see.  Perhaps it froze the cicadas, huh?

Probably not.

Supposedly, they've seen a few of our brood cicadas in county, but we've seen none yet.  They're not dangerous, not particularly harmful, but if they turn out in the billions like they're promising, I think they'll be just a little bit horrifying.  

The Atlantic Cities has a good story, if you like seeing big, loud bugs:17-Year Brood II Cicadas Emergence Update: They're Nearly Heeeere!

And that's it, I guess.  I think what's above is ugly enough for today.


  1. I hear they are good to eat. Not!

  2. I love the sound of cicadas, so I'm a tiny bit jealous. Let's hope they aren't too much a nuisance for you.