Yvonne D'Arcy from Loganlea who fought to have the BRCA1 breast cancer gene patent overturned. Photo Inga Williams / The Reporter
Yvonne D'Arcy from Loganlea who fought to have the BRCA1 breast cancer gene patent overturned. Photo Inga Williams / The Reporter Inga Williams

Yvette's fight to stop biotech firm patenting her genes

WHILE Yvonne D'Arcy may never have realised her dream of becoming a doctor, her significant contribution to the medical world will leave a legacy for generations to come.

Mrs D'Arcy gave up her medical studies after 10 months when the burden of working, studying and raising two children as a single mother became too much.

But law and medical students for generations to come will sit in class and hear their professors speak her name: D'Arcy v Myriad.

Loganlea's Yvonne D'Arcy made history last week when she won her "David and Goliath" battle against US biotech firm Myriad.

The firm had wanted to patent the BRCA-1 cancer gene. But 69-year-old three-time cancer survivor Mrs D'Arcy argued that as the genes existed in nature, they were discovered as opposed to invented.

The BRCA-1 gene drew attention in 2013 when actress Angelina Jolie revealed she had a double mastectomy after learning she carried the gene, which, if present dramatically increases a woman's chance of developing breast and ovarian cancer.

Mrs D'Arcy's first encounter with the BRCA-1 gene was in the 80s when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer.

She had a full hysterectomy but in 1998 was diagnosed with cancer for the second time. This time it was breast cancer. She beat it, but would fight it again 2009.

"Chemotherapy is an awful experience," she said.

"The only reason why I agreed to go through it a second time was because of my grandkids."

Hence it will be told that it was love, a grandmother's love for her grandkids, which put the fight back in her.

Mrs D'Arcy overcame cancer for the third time, and then took on a giant pharmaceutical company and won.

Cancer survivors and future generations of women carrying the BRCA-1 gene will reap the rewards of this tremendous fighting spirit.

Prior to Wednesday's unanimous ruling in favour of Mrs D'Arcy by the High Court of Australia, the tenacious cancer advocate had twice taken on Myriad in the Federal Court.

Both times the Federal Court ruled in favour of Myriad. Instead of giving up, Ms D'Arcy took her argument to the High Court.

At the heart of the case was the concern that ownership of the gene patent could undermine the research and development of treatments for genetic diseases and lead to higher costs for patients in need of potentially life-saving tests.

Prior to the Australian case, the United States Supreme Court in 2013 ruled against the patent on the grounds that naturally occurring DNA was a product of nature and not patentable.

"People are calling me a warrior woman but I'm just doing what I thought was right," Mrs D'Arcy said.

Senator Claire Moore personally congratulated and thanked Mrs D'Arcy on her High Court victory.

"It was your dedication, commitment and strength that provided the determination for others to see this through with you, thank you for not giving up," Senator Moore wrote to Mrs D'Arcy.

A mammoth fight and win may be behind her, but Mrs D'Arcy said her cause was not done yet.

Next on the agenda is to see testing for the BRCA-1 gene endorsed by MediCare.

"I'm not doing this for me; it's for those future generations of girls who will be born carrying the gene."


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