Statewide Screening Initiative Launched By Ohio State Has Life-Saving Potential

March 20, 2013
Statewide Screening Initiative Launched By Ohio State Has Life Saving Potential Heather Hampel

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Institute (OSUCCC – James) has launched a statewide initiative to screen newly diagnosed colorectal cancer patients and their biological relatives for Lynch Syndrome, the most common form of inherited colorectal, ovarian and uterine cancer. The effort – made possible through money raised by Pelotonia – will identify family members who may be at risk of developing these cancers so they can take precautionary measures.

The Ohio Colorectal Cancer Prevention Initiative is led by Heather Hampel, associate director of the Division of Human Genetics at the OSUCCC –James. Hampel says that about 3 percent of colorectal cancer cases result from Lynch Syndrome, which is characterized by inherited mutations in one of four genes for DNA-repair proteins. Each colorectal cancer patient with Lynch Syndrome has, on average, three relatives with the syndrome, heightening their risk for colorectal cancer.

Based in large part on research conducted at the OSUCCC – James from 1999-2008, the Centers for Disease Control’s Evaluation of Genomic Applications in Practice and Prevention working group recommends that all newly diagnosed colorectal cancer patients be screened for Lynch Syndrome. The OSUCCC – James has done this since 2006 to help reduce morbidity and mortality in colorectal cancer patients and their at-risk relatives, who can also benefit from increased surveillance methods if they too are found to have Lynch Syndrome.

The Ohio Colorectal Cancer Prevention Initiative includes 42 hospitals throughout Ohio that will implement the Lynch Syndrome screening program at their own institutions. They will advise patients and their physicians of the results, offer genetic counseling and make high-risk cancer surveillance recommendations to patients and family members found to have Lynch Syndrome.

“If you find people with Lynch Syndrome before they develop cancer, you have the potential to really save lives,” Hampel says. “Lynch Syndrome patients can take precautionary measures by having colonoscopies earlier and more frequently, starting at age 20 to 25 and performed every one to two years so precancerous polyps can be detected and removed, or so that cancer can be detected in an early stage when it is more treatable,” she says. It is estimated that the Ohio Colorectal Cancer Prevention Initiative will save nearly 1,000 years of life among Ohioans.

And to prevent ovarian and uterine cancers, she adds, women with Lynch Syndrome may choose to have a hysterectomy including removal of their ovaries once they are finished having children.

Gov. John Kasich has declared Friday (3/22) as Lynch Syndrome Hereditary Cancer Public Awareness Day to encourage Ohioans to learn their family histories of cancer and discuss it with their physicians in order to protect families and save lives from hereditary cancers.

An estimated 600,000 to 1 million people nationwide are projected to have Lynch Syndrome, however less than 10 percent are currently diagnosed. On average, almost 6,300 Ohioans are diagnosed each year with colorectal cancer. Each year in Ohio, about 1,170 women are projected to be diagnosed with endometrial cancer. Three to five percent of individuals with colorectal and/or endometrial cancer are projected to have Lynch Syndrome.

“Knowledge is power,” says Hampel. “By routinely testing patients across the state for Lynch Syndrome, we can save lives, and help to create a cancer-free world.”

The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute strives to create a cancer-free world by integrating scientific research with excellence in education and patient-centered care, a strategy that leads to better methods of prevention, detection and treatment. Ohio State is one of only 41 National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers and one of only seven centers funded by the NCI to conduct both phase I and phase II clinical trials. The NCI recently rated Ohio State’s cancer program as “exceptional,” the highest rating given by NCI survey teams. As the cancer program’s 228-bed adult patient-care component, The James is a “Top Hospital” as named by the Leapfrog Group and one of the top cancer hospitals in the nation as ranked by U.S. News & World Report.

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