Fox Chase taking part in nationwide trial of vaccine to break Lynch Syndrome, genetic cancer chain

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Tuesday, February 28, 2023
Local trial of vaccine to break genetic chain of cancer
Fox Chase is taking part in trials of a vaccine which could block Lynch Syndrome tumors, which cause several cancers.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Family genetics can play a role in cancer.

But the link is especially strong between Lynch Syndrome and some colon and endometrial cancers.

Fox Chase Cancer Center is taking part in a nationwide project aimed at preventing them.

It started with a seamstress.

Her boss - a university researcher - heard how colon cancer ran in her family.

His work led to the identification of Lynch syndrome - inherited genetic mutations that dramatically increase colon and endometrial cancers under age 50.

But Dr. Michael Hall, an oncologist and geneticist at Fox Chase Cancer Center, says Lynch Syndrome is also tied to other tumors, such as ovarian, stomach, pancreatic -

"Also risks of small bowel cancer, prostate cancer, various kinds of skin cancers," says Dr. Hall.

He says Lynch Syndrome is one of the most common hereditary cancer complexes, with about one in every 280 people carrying one of four mutations with varied risks.

With the MLH-1 and MSH-2 mutations -

"The estimates are that the risk of colon cancer over a lifetime may be up to close to 80%," says Dr. Hall.

For the other two - MSH6 and PMS2 - risks are lower, and cancers come later.

"We have in our database here, several families that that carry multiple Lynch syndrome genes, as well as several families that carry Lynch syndrome and another common mutation, such as BRCA," he says.

BRCA has been linked to breast cancer in women and men, prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, and melanoma.

Dr. Hall says fewer than 5% of Lynch Syndrome carriers know they have it.

And since most people don't get genetic testing, family medical history is important for recognizing it.

For identified carriers, more - and earlier - screenings are recommended.

"Starting colonoscopy in the 20s or 30s. Upper endoscopy is done as well," he notes.

Fox Chase is taking part in trials of a vaccine which could block Lynch Syndrome tumors.

It recognizes and targets proteins produced by the genetic mutations as they set the stage for cancer.

"So what the vaccine does it helps boost the immune system of Lynch Syndrome patients, before those events even happen," Dr. Hall says.

After getting 2 vaccine doses in a year, a patient's blood is analyzed.

"They're going to be looking at how much were the immune cells of the Lynch Syndrome patients stimulated by the vaccine?" he says.

This is a small, early trial. If it succeeds, the next phase will focus on how well it reduces the number of colon polyps or lesions.