The talcum powder multidistrict litigation (MDL) in federal court continues to proceed toward a June 2019 general causation hearing. During this general causation hearing, the court will consider whether there is sufficiently reliable scientific evidence to conclude that talcum powder products increase the risk of ovarian cancer. Moving toward this upcoming hearing, Plaintiffs disclosed their experts on Nov. 16, 2018. Defendants Johnson & Johnson (manufacturer of Baby Powder and Shower to Shower talc products), Imerys Talc America (talc mining company), and Personal Care Products Council (trade organization), must file their expert reports this month on Feb. 15.
While many areas of expertise must be covered for Plaintiffs to meet their burden of proof for general causation, we will highlight Plaintiffs’ gynecologic oncologists (board certified obstetrician gynecologists with a subspecialty in gynecologic oncology). Doctors Daniel L. Clarke-Pearson, Ellen Blair Smith, and Judith Wolf are Plaintiffs’ expert gynecologic oncologists.
Daniel L. Clarke-Pearson, MD, has focused his clinical practice, teaching and research for the past 40 years on the care of women with gynecologic cancers (cancers of the ovary, fallopian tube, uterus, cervix, vagina and vulva). He also cares for complex gynecologic surgical problems. He is currently Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill).
Dr. Clarke-Pearson received his bachelor’s degree in biology from Harvard. He attended medical school at Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, Ohio). He completed residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Duke University, and then completed his fellowship in Gynecologic Oncology there as well. Over the next five years, he served as an assistant professor at Duke (Division of Gynecologic Oncology), and then as the Director of Gynecology and Gynecologic Oncology at the University of Illinois (Chicago). He then returned to Duke as Director of Gynecologic Oncology and Director of the Gynecologic Oncology Fellowship program. He was granted tenure and awarded a Distinguished Professorship in 1993.
In 2005, Dr. Clarke-Pearson was appointed Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill). In that role, he has administrative responsibilities over 75 faculty, 28 residents in obstetrics and gynecology and 29 fellows receiving subspecialty training. He provides clinical care to women with gynecologic cancers including surgery, administration of chemotherapy, conducting clinical trials and educating residents in Obstetrics and Gynecology and Fellows in Gynecologic Oncology.
Further, Dr. Clarke-Pearson published more than 200 peer-reviewed manuscripts in medical literature, wrote over 50 chapters for medical textbooks and edited three medical textbooks. He served on the editorial boards of two peer-review journals (Obstetrics and Gynecology and Gynecologic Oncology), and served as a board examiner for the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology for 18 years.
Finally, Dr. Clarke-Pearson is actively involved with medical organizations including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the Society of Gynecologic Oncology (SGO), the American College of Surgeons (ACS) and the Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG). He led numerous ACOG continuing education courses, served on ACOG committees, served on the ACOG Executive Board, and chaired the Gynecologic Management Committee.
Further, Dr. Clarke-Pearson served on a number of SGO Committees and the Executive Board, and he was SGO President in 2010. As a member of ACS, he presented lectures and served on the Obstetrics and Gynecology Advisory Committee. The GOG is a cooperative group organization sponsored by the National Cancer Institute to conduct clinical trials investigating new treatments to improve the outcomes of women with gynecologic cancers. Many of his publications derive from participation in these clinical trials.
Ellen Blair Smith, MD, received a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of North Carolina (Greensboro). She graduated from medical school at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill). She completed her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at University of Texas Health Science Center – San Antonio (UTHSCSA), San Antonio, Texas, and she completed her fellowship in Gynecologic Oncology at Duke University.
Dr. Smith practiced gynecologic oncology from 1984-1987 as an assistant professor at the University of Virginia (Charlottesville). Thereafter, she began private practice in gynecologic oncology in Austin, Texas. Her practice cared for women known or suspected to have gynecologic cancers for more than 28 years. In her practice, Dr. Smith was responsible for all aspects of the care of hundreds of women with epithelial ovarian cancer. Her care involved diagnosis, preoperative, surgical, and postoperative care, chemotherapy selection and administration and post-treatment care and surveillance. Often, post-treatment surveillance led to the diagnosis of recurrent cancer and treatment cycles resumed. Often, after months or years, she provided end-of-life care for her patients.
Dr. Smith’s dissatisfaction with the inadequacies of screening systems to detect ovarian cancer early led her to follow the discoveries of genes increasing ovarian cancer risk and to promote the detection of such genes. Before these tests were commercially available, she worked with geneticist-physicians at the University of Pennsylvania and Duke University to detect such genes in her ovarian cancer patients and their daughters. She was an early advocate of risk-reducing salpingooophorectomy.
In 2004, Myriad Genetics (which patented the BRCA test) asked Dr. Smith to be its first gynecologic oncologist speaker. Until roughly 2011, she delivered many lectures to gynecologic colleagues throughout the U.S.
To enhance the end of life care of her patients, she became board certified in Hospice and Palliative Care in 2010. She retired from gynecologic oncology practice in December 2015. In April 2017, she returned to patient care as medical director of Halcyon Home Hospice. In that role, she continues to care for patients with ovarian and other cancers.
Judith Wolf, MD, has specialized in the care of women with cancer for over 30 years. She attended medical school at Northeast Ohio Universities College of Medicine and completed residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Texas San Antonio. She completed her fellowship in Gynecologic Oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center where she remained on faculty for more than 20 years as Professor in the Department of Gynecologic Oncology. Dr. Wolf’s area of expertise is ovarian cancer – diagnosis, research, treatment, and patient advocacy.
Dr. Wolf authored or co-authored more than 100 peer-reviewed research articles and was the principal investigator or co-investigator for 11 research grants related to gynecologic cancers. She also served as principal investigator, co-principal investigator, or collaborator on 84 protocols, and presented at more than 50 conferences, numerous scientific exhibitions and seminars (mostly on the topic of ovarian cancer).
In addition to her Gynecologic Oncology fellowship training, Dr. Wolf spent two years working in the lab and getting her Master’s degree in Biomedical Science from The University of Texas School of Biomedical Sciences (Houston). Her research as a graduate student investigated targets for therapy in ovarian cancer. One of these led to a phase I Clinical trial for women with ovarian cancer using a targeted therapy. After completing training, Dr. Wolf kept a research lab for over 10 years, investigating gene therapy for the treatment of ovarian and cervical cancer. Her lab research in ovarian cancer led to a Clinical trial of gene therapy for women with ovarian cancer. She became involved in both investigator initiated and NCI cooperative group clinical trials – Phase II and III trials of new therapies for ovarian cancer.
After many years as Professor at MD Anderson Cancer Center, in 2014 Dr. Wolf left to join the biomedical industry as a Chief Medical Officer at a diagnostic company focused on the early detection of ovarian cancer. Dr. Wolf co-authored several publications and helped the company gain U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearance for its second-generation multiprotein biomarker assay for ovarian cancer detection. Two years later, she joined another diagnostic company, again as Chief Medical Officer. That company used multi-protein assays and combined them with antibodies, trying to detect both breast and detection area. Its first publication used this combined technology for ovarian cancer detection. In mid-2018, she left her position to have more time to focus on volunteer and advocacy work for women’s health – with a large focus on ovarian cancer.
In 2014, Dr. Wolf joined the board of the Society for Women’s Health Research, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting research on biological differences in disease and improving women’s health. She also began working with Health Volunteers Overseas. She volunteered in Vietnam, Honduras and Haiti training physicians to care for women with gynecologic cancers. She is heading a project training young surgeons in Nepal to care for women with ovarian, cervical and uterine cancers. To continue to improve women’s health in the U.S., she works part time in Indianapolis, Indiana as a Gynecologic Oncologist.
Expert testimony is vital to helping a jury understand the complex scientific data that will be presented at the MDL talcum powder trials. In addition to testifying about how talcum powder is linked to the development of ovarian cancer, Drs. Clarke-Pearson, Smith, and Wolf will also educate the jury about the diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cancer.
Beasley Allen lawyers continue to investigate new cases involving women who have suffered from ovarian cancer after using Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower. For more information, contact Melissa Prickett or Brittany Scott, lawyers in our Mass Torts Section, at 800-898-2034. The following lawyers are on the Beasley Allen Talc Litigation Team: Ted Meadows, Danielle Mason, David Dearing, Ryan Beattie, Mallory Bullard and Jimmie Birley. In addition to the lawyers, the following staff members are involved in the trials: Katie Tucker, Stephanie Bailey, Brandi Dawkins and Gary Spigner. In addition to the trial team, there are lawyers and many staff members who support the litigation effort from our Montgomery office. The lawyers are Brittany Scott and Lauren Razick. The work of these lawyers, along with that of support staff in Montgomery, are very important to the successes in the Talc Litigation. There are also lawyers from Beasley Allen whose involvement is solely on the talc multidistrict litigation (MDL) in New Jersey. Leigh O’Dell (who serves as co-lead counsel for the MDL), Jennifer Emmel and Jenna Fulk are the lawyers involved from our firm. Staff member Lisa Bruner is also working on the MDL Litigation.