On Oct. 2, a large group of students, faculty (including program director Kathy Valverde), alumni, and staff from the Arcadia University Genetic Counseling program attended Philadelphia’s exclusive premiere of Decoding Annie Parker, the Hollywood feature film based on the true story of two remarkable women responsible for discovering the hereditary origins of breast cancer. The event was a fundraiser for FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered), the nation’s only nonprofit organization dedicated to helping families fighting hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.
The film depicts Annie Parker as a sharp witted young woman who watches her mother and sister succumb to breast cancer. When she is diagnosed with the disease Annie believes that her cancer is hereditary in nature and fights back against immeasurable odds. Dr. Mary-Claire King is the Berkeley-based geneticist who in 1990 proved the existence of a gene responsible for breast cancer and through linkage analysis mapped the BRCA 1 gene to chromosome 17, forever changing the understanding of the disease. Hers is considered one of the most important scientific discoveries of the 20th century.
Following the film the audience was treated to a panel discussion with the film’s writer and director, Steven Bernstein; Sue Friedman, the executive director and founder of FORCE; Dr. Mary Daly, chair of the Department of Clinical Genetics at Fox Chase Cancer Center; Dr. Susan Domcheck, executive director of the Basser Research Center for BRCA at Penn Medicine; and Annie Parker herself.