Universities can be sued for confounding cancer genes


The Michigan Court of Appeals has reinstated lawsuits against two universities for spurious results that were discovered years after two sisters were tested for high risk of skin cancer.

The court said the lawsuits brought by the Ohio family were not untimely, overturning the rulings of a judge who had ruled in favor of the University of Michigan and Yale University.

In 1999, Michael and Susan Lonsway saw an academic expert in cancer genetics with a family history of melanoma. Blood samples from their daughters, ages 5 and 3, were sent to a Yale University lab.

The Lonsways were told that Cameryn, like her father, had a genetic mutation associated with melanoma, but Delaney did not. With the news, the family took extra steps to protect Cameryn’s skin.

Years later, in 2014, the Yale lab discovered that the results were not being accurately reported; it was Delaney who had the transfer, not Cameryn.

Yale informed the University of Michigan, but a genetic counselor, Jessica Everett, did not notify the family. Delaney was subsequently diagnosed with melanoma in 2016. New tests in Pittsburgh in 2017 confirmed she had the gene mutation.

Everett “didn’t remember why she hadn’t passed the information” on to the family, the appeals court said in a summary of the case.

The appeal centered on the technical aspects of Michigan law regarding time limits for bringing a lawsuit. The court said the Lonsways had passed the hurdle.

The University of Michigan’s inability to tell the family that their test results were incorrect “arguably prevented complainants from benefiting from the essential purpose of genetic testing in the first place: to take precautionary measures and modify the behavior “to reduce the risk of cancer, the court said Thursday in a 3-0 notice.

Questions and answers: genetic abnormalities and cancer risk

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Quote: Court: Universities can be sued for genetic confusion of cancer (2021, February 13) retrieved February 14, 2021 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-02-court-universities-sued-cancer-gene .html

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