Gene patents and personalized cancer care: impact of the Myriad case on clinical oncology.
Patents as Topic
Genomic discoveries have transformed the practice of oncology and cancer prevention. Diagnostic and therapeutic advances based on cancer genomics developed during a time when it was possible to patent genes. A case before the Supreme Court, Association for Molecular Pathology v Myriad Genetics, Inc seeks to overturn patents on isolated genes. Although the outcomes are uncertain, it is suggested here that the Supreme Court decision will have few immediate effects on oncology practice or research but may have more significant long-term impact. The Federal Circuit court has already rejected Myriad's broad diagnostic methods claims, and this is not affected by the Supreme Court decision. Isolated DNA patents were already becoming obsolete on scientific grounds, in an era when human DNA sequence is public knowledge and because modern methods of next-generation sequencing need not involve isolated DNA. The Association for Molecular Pathology v Myriad Supreme Court decision will have limited impact on new drug development, as new drug patents usually involve cellular methods. A nuanced Supreme Court decision acknowledging the scientific distinction between synthetic cDNA and genomic DNA will further mitigate any adverse impact. A Supreme Court decision to include or exclude all types of DNA from patent eligibility could impact future incentives for genomic discovery as well as the future delivery of medical care. Whatever the outcome of this important case, it is important that judicial and legislative actions in this area maximize genomic discovery while also ensuring patients' access to personalized cancer care.