Laboratory People – Mary-Claire King

This weeks women in science spotlight is on Mary-Claire King, a geneticist who studies breast and ovarian cancer in addition to how genetics are influenced by the environment. One of King’s greatest accomplishments has been the identification of breast cancer genes.

In 1990, while working at the University of California, Berkeley, as a professor of genetics and epidemiology, King demonstrated that 5-10% of all breast cancer cases were hereditary, stemming from a single gene on chromosome 17 (better known as BRCA1).

King worked on the project for 17 years, from 1974-1990 and the discovery reignited the study of other diseases. The discovery has enabled the development of screenings, tests, and treatments, as well as helped women make more informed choices regarding their health. Since 1990, King has put her effort into researching genetic causes of hearing loss, schizophrenia, and neurological issues.