Discussion with Mary-Claire King: Breast cancer gene discoverer

There has never been a scientific career quite like Mary-Claire King’s. Years ago, her doctoral thesis concluded that humans and chimpanzees were, genetically speaking, 99 percent the same — a revolutionary thought. Her later work on human cancers resulted in the discovery of the so-called breast cancer gene, BRCA1, which transformed the diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

Besides her traditional scientific pursuits, Dr. King created genetic tests to help ascertain the identities of victims of political violence in places like Rwanda and El Salvador. And she did all this as a single mother raising a daughter.

Dr. King, 68, is now a geneticist at the University of Washington. We spoke in New York last fall, after she was awarded the prestigious Lasker Prize. A condensed and edited version of the interview follows.

Read full, original article: A Never-Ending Genetic Quest

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