King’s background as a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley in the 60’s gives a window into her persistent nature. She also received a BA in math from Carleton College, an interest piqued from her childhood. If you are curious about the baseball analogies, King as a child spent hours alongside her father and brother reviewing stats for their beloved Chicago Cubs!
Dr. King and her brother.
Mary-Claire King would need such fortitude when a commercial venture with more robust financial and computing resources cloned the BRCA1 gene on Chromosome 17. Ultimately the 2013 Supreme Court ruled that “A naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated.”
“I had the honor of naming it and I named it BRCA1 for breast cancer one,” stated King.
Inherited breast cancer is rare and affects about 5-10% of all breast cancer patients–both women and men; those who test positive for the BRCA1 and 2 mutations have a 45-65% chance of getting breast cancer.
“Despite all the work that’s been done by many groups on BRCA1, BRCA2 and their sister genes, it’s still that case that probably half of severely affected families with breast cancer are not solved,” explained King.
Dr. King receiving the 2014 National Medal of Science from President Barack Obama
The technique that King discovered has jettisoned research in the hereditary nature of many complex human diseases. Today the King lab at the University of Washington, Seattle continues this genetic journey into inherited breast cancer and on mutations that lead to schizophrenia and occur newly [de novo] in that person.
We salute Mary-Claire King for transforming our understanding of inherited breast cancer and saving lives.