How useful are cancer gene tests?

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The cancer genetics startup Color Genomics is announcing that it will expand its test for breast and ovarian cancer genes to include a total of 30, including genes related to pancreatic, stomach, colon, and prostate cancer.

Color stands out among the field because of its price: $249. That’s cheap enough to leapfrog insurance companies, the traditional gatekeepers of genetic tests. Insurance typically only covers genetic tests for cancer—which can run to over a thousand dollars among Color’s competitors—if a patient has risk factors like family history of cancer at a young age. Color also helpfully refers would-be customers to doctors to order the test. “Historically the test has been very expensive, and the process to get testing meant jumping through lots of loops,” says president and cofounder Othman Laraki. “We want for access to no longer be a barrier.”

It’s easy to nod along: More access, more genes, more tests all sound like much-needed defenses in the interminable war against cancer. But doctors caution that our ability to sequence DNA—to build machines that can manipulate DNA samples at scale and write code that can assemble gene sequences—has far outpaced our ability to understand how those genes cause cancer. Most of the 30 genes on Color’s panel or the 25 genes on Myriad’s panel or 32 genes on GeneDx’s panel? They don’t matter enough to be useful.

Read full, original post: A single $249 test analyzes 30 cancer genes. But do you need it?

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