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Pathway to market DNA screening that looks for mutations

A new cancer test from San Diego-based Pathway Genomics will include results for two breast cancer genes formerly patented by Myriad Genetics. A Supreme Court decision on Thursday invalidated those and other patents on naturally occurring DNA.

Pathway’s Hereditary Cancer DNA Insight test will go on sale in August, said CEO Jim Plante. The test will screen for mutations in more than 30 genes involved in breast, ovarian, colorectal and other cancers.

The test was already designed to include the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes covered by Myriad’s now invalidated patents, Plante said. If the patents had not been overturned, Pathway would have withheld the results.

John Simpson, a spokesman for the Santa Monica-based public interest group Consumer Watchdog, said the Supreme Court decision ended Myriad’s “lock” on use of the BRCA genes.

“The result should be more tests that will provide competition that should lower the costs,” he said.

Plante spoke in virtually identical terms.

“There can be an environment of competition now, and not monopoly,” Plante said. “That’s going to result in lower prices, better tests, and more accessibility.”

Like its other tests, Pathway will offer the hereditary cancer test through doctors. In 2010, the company had tried to offer its genetic tests direct to customers through Walgreens, but backed off after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration opposed it.

Pricing hasn’t been set for the new test, but the cost for including the BRCA genes will be lower than what Myriad charged, Plante said. Myriad’s test cost $3,000.

The BRCA gene mutations are linked to about 5 percent of breast cancers and 10 percent to 15 percent of ovarian cancers, Pathway said. The genes normally suppress tumor formation; when they are disabled by mutations, tumors are more likely to form.

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