Patient Groups Fiercely Oppose Roche's New Genetic Test to Detect Cervical Cancer

A high-tech screening tool for cervical cancer is facing pushback from more than a dozen patient groups, who warn that the genetic test could displace a simpler, cheaper and more established mainstay of women's health: the Pap smear.

The new test from Roche uses DNA to detect the human papillomavirus, or HPV, which causes nearly all cases of cervical cancer. While such technology has been available for years, Roche now wants the FDA to approve its test as a first-choice option for cervical cancer screening, bypassing the decades-old Pap test.

But a number of women's groups — including the American Medical Women's Association and Our Bodies Ourselves — warn that moving to a DNA-based testing model would be a "radical shift" in medical practice that could lead to confusion, higher costs and overtreatment.

"It replaces a safe and effective well-established screening tool and regimen that has prevented cervical cancer successfully in the U.S. with a new tool and regimen not proven to work in a large U.S. population," state the groups in a letter to FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg. The letter, dated Monday, is signed by 17 patient advocacy groups, including Consumers Union, the Cancer Prevention and Treatment Fund and the National Alliance for Hispanic Health.

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Source: abc News