31 Oct 2014

The discovery of the BRCA gene 20 years ago

From Nine To Noon, 10:09 am on 31 October 2014

AnnieParkerBreast cancer survivor Annie Parker was was convinced that the disease plaguing the women in her family was no coincidence. Both her mother and sister died after getting breast cancer. Annie Parker's was diagnosed when she was 29 in 1980. She survived, only to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer eight years later.

She quizzed her doctors about a genetic link, given her family history, but was told she was being a hypochondriac, and that she was just unlucky. But she continued to dig for information.

Meanwhile geneticist Dr Mary-Claire King was herself challenging conventional wisdom and searching for a genetic link to cancers that affected generations of families. Dr King discovered the BRCA gene and in 1994 Annie Parker was the first person in Canada to be tested for the mutation and she tested positive.

Information on genetic breast cancer risks

Annie Parker's book, Annie Parker Decoded, was made into a film starring Samantha Morton and Helen Hunt.