OCCPI: Pelotonia-Funded Research Saves Lives of At-Risk Family Members
James McDaniel’s colon cancer diagnosis came as no surprise. His father, uncle and grandfather all succumbed to the disease in their mid-40s. “I’d been expecting it,” says McDaniel, who was age 48 at the time of his diagnosis.
A vice president of the mortgage division at Huntington and father of three daughters, McDaniel had been cleared during his cancer screening at age 44 and told to come back for another screening in five years – but that was prior to the discovery that he has Lynch syndrome, an inherited genetic condition that predisposes individuals to colorectal and uterine cancer.
Lynch syndrome not only put him at increased risk for cancer but would also impact his daughters’ health if they too had inherited the condition. Thankfully, the Ohio Colorectal Cancer Prevention Initiative (OCCPI) was there for McDaniel and his family.
Powered by funding from Pelotonia – an annual grassroots bicycling event that has raised over $61 million for cancer research at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) – the OCCPI provided the cancer genetic counseling that the McDaniel family needed based on cutting-edge research.
The OCCPI offers free genetic counseling and testing for the at-risk biological family members of colorectal cancer patients. Researchers work to determine whether a gene mutation or “mistake” has caused a person to get cancer; if a genetic cause is found, the OCCPI can offer predictive testing for that person’s at-risk relatives. This life-saving service is made possible through the generosity of Pelotonia riders, volunteers and sponsors.
Heather Hampel, MS, CGC, a professor in The Ohio State University College of Medicine and a genetic counselor at the OSUCCC – James, explains the significance of this work for affected family members: “These are people who haven’t had cancer yet, and we can tell them whether they’re at risk or not. They can get the appropriate screening and keep from getting cancer. This is a very preventable cancer, and genetic testing can save lives.”
The work of the OCCPI is estimated to save nearly 1,000 years of life for Ohioans. Says Hampel, “We absolutely could not be doing this without Pelotonia.”
McDaniel, who is now cancer-free, concurs. “If it wasn’t for Pelotonia sponsoring the genetic testing for free, my daughters may not have found out whether they also carry the gene.”
His eldest daughter was confirmed to have Lynch syndrome and will receive the preventive care and screenings she needs; his other two daughters tested negative. Last June, Hampel traveled to McDaniel’s family reunion and tested 20 of his relatives for Lynch syndrome so that even more lives could be saved.
“For my daughter to know the diagnosis, and for her to be treated early – that really means a lot to me,” McDaniel says.