Saving Lives Statewide

Research OCCPI 1200X900

The Pelotonia-funded Ohio Colorectal Cancer Prevention Initiative (OCCPI) involves the OSUCCC – James and more than 40 Ohio hospitals working to reduce the number of deaths from and increase screening for colorectal cancer (CRC) across the state.

CRC is the third most common cancer and the third most common cause of cancer death in the United States. Some 5,430 new CRC cases and nearly 2,100 deaths from the disease are expected in Ohio in 2015.

“CRC is highly preventable and treatable when caught early through screening, but many people don’t realize that colonoscopies can prevent CRC by removing polyps in the colon before they become cancerous,” says Heather Hampel, MS, LGC, who heads the prevention initiative.

The OCCPI focuses on screening tumor samples from CRC patients—and also uterine cancer patients at the OSUCCC – James—to learn which patients have Lynch syndrome (LS), a cancer-causing condition that occurs when a person inherits a mutation in one of four genes.

A person with a mutation in one of these genes is almost 100 percent likely to develop CRC, uterine, ovarian, gastric, kidney or other cancer in his or her lifetime, usually at a younger age.

If a person learns he or she has LS before cancer develops, diligent cancer surveillance can prevent some of these cancers or detect them early, when they are easier to treat.

Pelotonia has provided the OCCPI with $3.5 million in support. By mid-April 2015, the project had identified LS or other hereditary cancer susceptibility syndrome in more than 100 individuals. Preventing cancer and the consequent loss of life in these individuals translates into an estimated savings of $40 million in healthcare costs. 

Ultimately, the OCCPI will test tumor tissue from 3,000 newly diagnosed CRC patients at the OSUCCC – James and other participating hospitals to see if the four LS genes are working or not. Those subsequently found to have a change (mutation) in one of the LS genes is diagnosed with LS. This can be life-saving information for that person’s siblings, parents and children.

First-degree relatives—parents, siblings and children—of someone with LS have a 50-percent chance of inheriting the same mutation. Hampel and her colleagues have evidence that for every patient diagnosed with LS, three family members on average also carry the mutation.

So when LS is identified in one family member, other family members can be tested for the LS gene mutation that is running in their families. Those found to have LS are counseled to seek regular screening to detect cancer early; those without the mutation can follow the usual screening guidelines.

A second arm of the OCCPI monitors the first-degree relatives of the study’s newly diagnosed CRC patients to learn whether education about the benefits of colonoscopy and providing a personalized prescription for colon cancer screening will improve colonoscopy screening rates and prevent future cancers.