The treating physician for a woman alleging J&J’s talcum powder products caused her terminal ovarian cancer told a California jury on Tuesday that talcum powder caused the cancer, and that scientific studies that show no connection between the substance and cancer are based on flawed data.
During the third week of the trial in Los Angeles, plaintiff Eva Echeverria called to the stand the doctor that treated her cancer, oncologist and University of Southern California gynecology assistant professor Annie Yessaian, whose opinion J&J unsuccessfully tried to have excluded before the trial.
Under examination by Echeverria attorney, Yessaian told the jury about the chemotherapy and other treatments Echeverria underwent — and that her opinion was that but for Echeverria’s daily use of J&J talcum powder products on her genital area for decades, she would not have developed ovarian cancer.
Yessaian said she had based her opinion on her own experience as well as studies showing that particulate matter can migrate into women’s genital tracts, and studies showing that chronic inflammation, as could be caused by talc particles in an ovary, can push human cells to change in ways that would increase the risk of cancer.
Robinson asked Yessaian why she wasn’t convinced otherwise by epidemiological studies showing no statistically significant association between talc use and ovarian cancer. The doctor responded by going through several studies one-by-one, explaining that they had failed to ask the proper questions of the women in their samples, leaving out key information about the duration or frequency of their talc use, and saying that it recalled the statistics aphorism “garbage in, garbage out.”
“It’s just it’s a flaw in the methodology of the study. I mean you’re trying find a connection … but the most important thing is how you are first of all collecting your data,” she said.
Yessaian said that for her opinion, she wasn’t relying on any single study or theory, but had looked at a range of evidence, including Echeverria’s genetic testing, family history and health factors, in deciding her talc use was responsible for her cancer.
“I did not look at one study, one element, one factor, one exposure; it is the totality of the evidence,” she said. “I am not putting all my eggs in one basket.”
Echeverria filed suit with six other women in Los Angeles County Superior Court in July 2016, alleging that for years she used talcum powder mined by Imerys Talc America and sold by J&J, and that she developed ovarian cancer in 2007. Echeverria would be the first plaintiff to head to trial out of the hundreds in the complex litigation consolidating California claims against the companies.