Simple Saliva Test for Breast and Ovarian Cancers in the offing – A Silicon Valley startup, Color Genomics, is planning to offer affordable and more accessible genetic screening for breast and ovarian cancers.
Color Genomics is planning to charge $249 for the test, and it includes screening for BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, and 17 other genes linked to risk of cancer. Not only is the price 1/10th the price of what’s currently available in the market, the test would also be accessible to anyone who wants it. Medical guidelines currently limit genetic testing for women who already have cancer or have a family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer, and health insurance companies cover costs only in such cases.
By making the test inexpensive, Color Genomics also hopes that women can pay for it on their own, taking insurance companies out of the picture. The company also wants to provide free testing for those who can’t afford it.
Mary-Claire King, the University of Washington geneticist whose work led to the discovery of the BRCA1 gene, is an adviser for Color Genomics, and wants the test to be available to all American women who are 30 and older. Some experts however feel that offering it to more women will have negative consequences, such as more false-positives or cases where tumors cannot be classified as benign or cancerous, causing needless worry for many women.
According to Dr. Kenneth Offit, chief of the clinical genetics service at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, “We have to be careful that we are not just increasing this group of worried-well who have incomplete information.”