Department of Medicine and Department of Genome Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.
The existence of BRCA1 was proven in 1990 by mapping predisposition to young-onset breast cancer in families to chromosome 17q21. Knowing that such a gene existed and approximately where it lay triggered efforts by public and private groups to clone and sequence it. The press baptized the competition "the race" and reported on it in detail for the next 4 years. BRCA1 was positionally cloned in September 1994. Twenty years later, I reflect on "the race" and its consequences for breast cancer prevention and treatment.