A myraid of jeans, genes

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By Kay Kerbyson

I have 26 pairs of jeans, mostly ones I’ve inherited: blue, black, bleached white (accidental contact with chemicals which didn’t turn out too well) and a moth eaten pair with a gaping hole which no longer functions to protect the body part it should.
They’re my jeans, I own them. The unintentional patterns I’ve created are mine too. I only think that’s fair.
I can even go onto a myriad of fashion websites now and create new jean patterns. The site critiques my design and tells me whether I’m good to go, or shouldn’t be seen dead in them. But wouldn’t it be terrible if just one company had the sole right to do that.
Every time an invading moth ate a hole in my jeans, I would have only one company to choose from to find out whether it was fashionable, or a terrible faux pas. But that’s OK, because if we opened the market up so anyone could tell us whether our design was good or not, there’d be no more incentive for the company to develop new ways to give us expert advice; maybe tell us how bad our husband’s smoking jackets were or whether the ankle length skirt I’m wearing to hide that hideous irregular brown mark on my leg is a good idea.
Or maybe, just maybe, because someone could do the whole thing cheaper, that sole company wouldn’t give up its monopoly. Wow, that’s uncannily like a genetic testing company saying that if they don’t get the monopoly on evaluating your basic design pattern, it will kill any future research into new testing and expertise.
It would almost be like a research scientist saying they only work to further the advancement of human kind for the money. As a trained research scientist, I find that rather insulting, but I’m also not naïve enough to know that the higher up the ladder you climb the more profit rather than science becomes the directive.
Yes, maybe the company wouldn’t make the billions of dollars in profit they do now, but my research would still be relative and creative and might just help someone’s sons or daughters take action now, before the moth got into the closet.
You see, I have a vested interest, along with the other one in two Americans who will get cancer in their lifetime by 2020. I want to know whether the breast cancer and endometrial cancer that my mom has fought is genetically linked to my ovarian cancer, as a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested. Furthermore, it suggested that all cancer diagnosis will come down to a genetic fingerprint mutation in the future.
Does the Supreme Court’s ruling, that Myriad Genetics can no longer patent their BRCA testing for breast and ovarian cancer, mean that new tests will never be developed? I doubt it. Because if that was the case we wouldn’t have Walmart all the way up to Bloomingdales selling what are essentially the same items of clothing.
Diversity and specialism pushes new market opportunities, because after all if you want a $20 pair of torn jeans and your friend needs a designer pair of Versace you’re not going to shop at the same store. But more than that, I’m hoping that the integrity of the scientists and the boards of directors will win through. The market is big enough for plenty of players.
And if not, maybe the future of our health, and that of our children, shouldn’t be in the hands of CEO’s and shareholders. It should be in the hands of the justice system. Because our children deserve that.

Kay Kerbyson is president/founder of Ovarian Cancer Together! Inc., a nonprofit organization working throughout New Mexico to educate women about ovarian cancer and support those who are touched by it. Kerbyson is also an Associate of the Los Alamos Council on Cancer. Visit ovariancancertogether.org, LosAlamosCouncilOnCancer.org, or email Kay@ovariancancertogether.org.