New study shows lung cancer may be inherited

A new study by a local Bay Area non-profit research center reveals that people may inherit lung cancer from their ancestors.
November 7, 2013 8:09:57 PM PST
A local nonprofit is funding for a Harvard study to find out whether lung cancer can be inherited because of a gene mutation. We talked with one woman who learned about the research and says it may have saved her life.

"They took enough tissue around it, so they can tell it's not in the lymph nodes, so it hadn't spread anywhere," lung cancer survivor Nancy Capelli said.

Capelli was lucky that she was able to detect her lung cancer early.

She explained why that happened at the lung cancer foundation in San Carlos. The foundation is funding new research to find out whether lung cancer can be inherited.

Capelli was advised to get checked, after a couple of things happened.

Her mother, Jimmie, was battling breast cancer and thought it had come back. But, it was actually lung cancer. A rare mutation called T790 was found in her DNA.

Jimmie enrolled in the inherit study at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, where she learned her family might be at risk.

"Then, I found out I tested positive for having that inherited gene mutation," Jimmie said.

Next, Capelli got a CT scan.

"There were seven or eight little nodules, which was kind of frightening, but they were very small," Capelli said.

So, she had surgery to remove the largest nodule.

"It came back as stage zero," Capelli said.

Capelli gets a CT scan every six months, now. She also joined the support group formed by Bonnie and Tony Addario.

"Some of these individuals are in their 20s and already have small lung nodules growing in their lungs, even though they're young, never smoked. We worry this is lung cancer developing early," Dr. Geoffrey Oxnard said.

Bonnie survived stage three b lung cancer and plans to get tested for the T790 gene mutation.

"Because, obviously losing four family members to this disease, I want to do something that will help my kids and grandkids," Bonnie said.

"If this is something that is passed genetically, that had nothing to do with carcinogens, hopefully this will also go to attack the stigma of smoking," Tony said.

The Addario's also founded a research program called ALCMI, which is coordinating testing for families in the study. They can enroll online at DanaFarber.org. Families will receive a kit, with a mouth swab for a DNA sample to mail in.

"So, this research is really important for people like myself to get early diagnosis. We know with any type of disease, finding out early is better," Capelli said.


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