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Amidst Angelina Jolie revelation, SIFF features UW doctor who discovered breast cancer gene

The 39th annual Seattle International Film Festival kicks off Thursday night.

I had planned on doing an overview of the literally hundreds of movies debuting at this year’s festival. But then a major news story broke out and re-focused my attention, not on a great variety of movies, but on one very specific film in the festival: “Decoding Annie Parker.”

As much of the world knows by now, Angelina Jolie announced Tuesday that she’d had a double mastectomy to avoid the same breast and ovarian cancer that took the life of her mother when she was still in her 50’s. Jolie discovered she had a strong genetic predisposition to the same illness and acted accordingly.

None of this would have been possible without the revolutionary work of a University of Washington geneticist named Mary-Claire King. Over the course of 16 years of research, King discovered “the breast cancer gene” and demonstrated 5-10 percent of all cases of breast cancer may be hereditary.

King and her patients are now getting the Hollywood treatment in the film “Decoding Annie Parker.”

“I have to ask, Dr. King, what’s the story with the clock?”

“The clocked is marked at every 12 minutes, that’s how often a woman will die of breast cancer in this country,” responds King, portrayed by Oscar-winner Helen Hunt.

“We have a proposition that certain breast cancers are inherited. No one else believes this. We do. To prove it we have to do four things,” says King.

Those four things: Find a group of women whose relatives have breast cancer; track the inheritance of the breast cancer gene from generation to generation; isolate the gene and sequence it to find the mutation and find out if it repeats in the relatives and if it does then that is the link.”

It’s only fitting that the festival’s two screenings of “Decoding Annie Parker” will benefit the King Lab at the University of Washington.

“Decoding Annie Parker” will play at the Egyptian Theatre June 6 and June 8.

Find Tom’s bets best for the Seattle International Film Festival here

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