Company defends online marketing of CA125 ovarian cancer checks

By Tessa Hoffman

10 Oct 2018

An Australian company has defended its online promotion of CA125 “ovarian cancer check” tests.

The company, i-screen, is marketing the CA125 test direct to consumers for $49, as one of a suite of tests to “track key biomarkers in your blood before they become an issue”.

Consumers who buy the test online receive a pathology request form via email, with referrals provided by the company’s GP. The form can be taken to more than 3000 collection centres run by pathology giants including Laverty and QML.

Results are then provided back to consumers after being “reviewed by qualified medical professionals who will provide interpretation of your results to help you understand what they mean, as well as any recommended next steps”.

The CA125 test is not recommended by any medical professional body as a screening tool for ovarian cancer. The i-screen website notes that the presence of CA125 protein does not always indicate cancer, and half of all women with early stage ovarian cancer do not have elevated levels.

This means care is needed in evaluating a positive test result and CA125 is not recommended as a screening test for women with no symptoms, i-screen’s website states.

The company, co-founded by pathologist Dr Kim Cheah, a fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia (RCPA), sells a variety of other tests targeting lifestyle and wellness such as checks for adrenal fatigue, testosterone levels and gut parasites.

In a statement, i-screen’s CEO and co-founder Amelia Thornycroft said the company’s aim was to “empower proactive individuals who want to access and monitor their health data”.

“We are aware of the controversy surrounding use of this test as part of a national screening program, and that CA125 can be absent when disease is present, or levels can be high when no disease exists – this is made clear in the interpretation of an individual’s results,” Ms Thornycroft said in the statement.

“The i-screen platform is designed to complement the care an individual would receive from their GP.”

The Cancer Council Australia said it “does not support commercial marketing of cancer tests and their arbitrary promotion and use”.

Cancer Council CEO Professor Sanchia Aranda said the CA125 blood test was not accurate enough to screen average-risk populations.

“So promoting it widely for use without the advice of a medical professional could lead to high levels of anxiety and unnecessary invasive treatments for women affected,” Dr Aranda told the limbic.

There are no tests effective enough for a population based screening program for ovarian cancer, and there is no evidence to suggest that screening will reduce the number of deaths from ovarian cancer, the Cancer Council said.

The RCPA was unable to provide comment before deadline.

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