Mary-Claire King visits Helleday Laboratory

Lasker award winner, Nobel Peace Prize nominee and discoverer of BRCA1 Mary-Claire King visited Stockholm to give a Nobel Forum lecture.

Mary-Claire King, PhD, is American Cancer Society Professor at the University of Washington, Seattle. She was the first to show that breast cancer is inherited in some families, as the result of mutations in the gene that she named BRCA1.

Dr Kings background in mathematics made her look at the issue of breast cancer clustering in families differently. Thomas Helleday and others later developed treatments for inherited breast, ovarian and prostate cancer based on her work. The PARP-inhibitor.

Dr King has also done extraordinary humanitarian work. In 1984 her lab worked with Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo (Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo) in Argentina. She used dental genetics to identify missing people, ultimately identifying 59 children and helping return them to their biological families.

Thomas Helleday sat down with Mary-Claire King during her visit, asking her about both her scientific and humanitarian work. You can watch their discussion by viewing the videos below.

FindingĀ BRCA1

Today we know that some breast, ovarian and prostate cancer can be attributed to a mutated gene. Mary-Claire King was the scientist who discovered this. She started with looking at old records of breast cancer clustering in families, she could see that there was something there to be found. So she kept on looking, gathering more data to be able to construct a mathematical theory of how many cases of breast cancers could be attributed to a mutated gene.

Once she had a mathematical model she wanted to move on and find the gene.

Challenging the paradigm

When Mary-Claire King first proposed her model it was not widely accepted. Her science went against the belief that inherited mutated genes where only causing rare cancers. In this clip Thomas Helleday and Mary-Claire King discuss why they think Mary-Claire Kings model wasn’tĀ  accepted when her maths were clear.

How being a woman gives you freedom

Thomas Helleday and Mary-Claire King talk about how being outside the box gave her freedom. Being ignored is not always a bad thing.

Mary-Claire King brings up the one group that didn’t ignore her. Surgeons. She talks about how friendly they were and how they contributed to finding the gene.

Footprint in politics

Thomas Helleday and Mary-Claire King discuss politics and what it means to be a scientists. Mary-Claire King propose that a scientist is a citizen of the world and therefore they not only influence the world with their science, they influence their direct surroundings as well.

Mary-Claire Kings interest in politics came to life as she attended Berkley in the sixties. For her politics became a way of life.

Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo

Dr King has done extraordinary humanitarian work. In 1984 her lab worked with Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo (Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo) in Argentina. She used dental genetics to identify missing people, ultimately identifying 59 children and helping return them to their biological families.

Mary-Claire King talks about why and how she worked with Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo.

Advice

Lastly Mary-Claire King speaks inspirational words to everyone watching. Keep your mind and heart open so that you can find what you love!

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