Yale research scientist Ellen T. Matloff was recently featured in the Finger Lakes Times as a Geneva High School alum who will return to her hometown to present a talk titled “The Angelina Jolie Effect: Genetic Testing in 2013” at the Colleges. Matloff, director of cancer genetic counseling at the Yale Cancer Center/Yale School of Medicine, will present a talk on Thursday, Oct. 24, as part of the Max and Marian Farash Community Lecture series.
“I see patients who are at high risk for hereditary forms of cancer, and we do genetic counseling and genetic testing to determine what their risks are, and hopefully lower that risk through surveillance and risk protection,” Matloff is quoted. “We take their family history through four generations and use that history to estimate the chance of cancer. Based on that, we pick a genetic test that would be appropriate to avoid getting cancer.”
The article also discusses Matloff’s eagerness to return to her hometown. Noting she was invited to speak at the Colleges by Lorinda Weinstock, director of the Abbe Center for Jewish Life. “Lorinda asked me to do it and I couldn’t say no. She was my Sunday school teacher and this is my hometown. This is where I come from. I’m very excited about coming back home and talking about this subject. The talk will be about my field, the Supreme Court case and Angelina Jolie’s disclosure, and how it affects the average person and what it means for the future,” she said.
The full article follows.
Finger Lakes Times
From the halls of GHS to the Supreme Court
Research scientist will return to discuss role in landmark genetics case
Mike Hibbard • October 8, 2013
GENEVA – Ellen Matloff, a 1987 Geneva High graduate and director of Yale Cancer Centers genetic counseling program, will give a talk Oct. 24 at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. The event, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Geneva Room.
As a genetic counselor, Ellen Matloff deals with people from all walks of life who make life-altering decisions on their medical care. She credits her education and interactions at Geneva High School with helping her relate to those folks.
“Having gone to public school in Geneva, I’ve been competing my whole life with those who went to boarding school or private school, or went to Ivy League colleges,” Matloff said by phone recently from Yale Cancer Center, where she is a research scientist in genetics and director of the cancer genetic counseling program.
“I can honestly say my foundation in the Geneva public school system really enabled my success. Not only did it give me a strong educational background, but I know how to deal with real people.”
Matloff, a 1987 GHS grad and one of the world’s foremost figures in the field of genetic counseling, will return to her hometown later this month to discuss her work and role in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision.
Her conference, titled “The Angelina Jolie Effect: Genetic Testing in 2013,” will be Oct. 24 as part of the Max and Marian Farash Community Lecture series at HWS. The talk will include discussion of Jolie, the actress who had a double mastectomy after learning she had a high risk of developing breast cancer due to a defective gene.
Matloff, who specializes in hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndromes, hereditary colon cancer syndromes and rare cancer syndromes, provides counseling to people and families considering genetic testing. She outlines what to expect and what the results will mean for them.
“I see patients who are at high risk for hereditary forms of cancer, and we do genetic counseling and genetic testing to determine what their risks are, and hopefully lower that risk through surveillance and risk protection,” Matloff said. “We take their family history through four generations and use that history to estimate the chance of cancer. Based on that, we pick a genetic test that would be appropriate to avoid getting cancer.”
The daughter of retired Drs. David and Martha Matloff of Geneva, Matloff earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Union College. She has a master’s degree in genetic counseling from Northwestern University Medical School. Matloff worked for two years in pediatric genetics at SUNY Health Science Center in Syracuse. During that time she was recruited to start the genetic counseling program at Yale, which she did in 1995. Today, Yale’s program is one of the largest in the country.
Matloff has lectured internationally on cancer genetics and has published extensively on the topic of cancer genetic counseling and testing. Shortly after going to Yale School of Medicine, Matloff said she became involved in and aware of the dangers of patents on certain genes, particularly the BRCA (breast cancer gene) patents issued to Myriad Genetics, a molecular diagnostic company based in Salt Lake City.
Myriad claimed exclusive rights to test those genes, whose mutations predict high risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Matloff said that left patients with no choice but to pay high prices in order to receive Myriad’s genetic risk profile.
“The patenting of genes is probably the one issue that affects every human being in the entire world,” Matloff said. “Male, female, black, white, Hispanic, sick, healthy, we all have genes, and with our knowledge from the Human Genome Project, we have the ability to use this information to predict disease, and to make health care more effective and more efficient. Patents get in the way of that.”
For that reason, Matloff agreed to be the lead plaintiff in a case – Association for Molecular Pathology vs. Myriad Genetics – that reached the Supreme Court last November. Matloff and others argued that genes are naturally occurring and therefore not patentable.
“Myriad hadn’t discovered or invented anything novel,” she said. “These human genes did not belong to them.”
In June, justices unanimously decided against gene patents. “I’m thrilled. Our patients will have cheaper, faster and better genetic testing moving forward, and research will be open for BRCA carriers,” Matloff said.
Matloff was invited to speak at HWS by Lorinda Weinstock, director of the Abbe Center for Jewish Life at the Colleges. “Lorinda asked me to do it and I couldn’t say no. She was my Sunday school teacher and this is my hometown,” she said. “This is where I come from. I’m very excited about coming back home and talking about this subject. The talk will be about my field, the Supreme Court case and Angelina Jolie’s disclosure, and how it affects the average person and what it means for the future.”
Weinstock said Matloff’s talk will be timely, coming during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. “We are delighted that the Max and Marian Farash Foundation has made it possible for us to bring Ms. Matloff back to Geneva to enlighten our community on the recent advances and developments in BRCA I and II and genetic testing,” Weinstock said. “During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we are fortunate to have someone of her experience and expertise bring us up to date on the recent developments in a subject which has undergone such rapid advances. Genetic testing will have a huge impact on all our lives in the future. Ellen will help us all understand this new approach to medical care.”
Matloff said she is looking forward to seeing her family, friends and teachers at GHS. “For anyone who has a kid in the Geneva school district, I can tell them it will serve their child well,” she said. “I credit my teachers and the community in general with giving me a place to not only learn academics, but how to stick up for the little guy.”