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BC Cancer Agency researcher inspired by family to help others

​A BC Cancer Agency researcher, inspired by her family's experience, is helping to improve care for patients around the world at risk of developing a deadly hereditary gastric cancer.
Researcher for gastric cancer

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Samantha Hansford, co-author on a recent study, joined the BC Cancer Agency's Centre for Translational and Applied Genomics lab after being inspired by the life-saving impact the genetics research team had on her family.

Hereditary diffuse gastric cancer is a rare condition that can result in aggressive, early-onset cancers of the stomach and breast across several generations of a family.

Hansford's mother, Geralyn, underwent a preventative prophylactic gastrectomy— the only reliable form of preventing this deadly cancer amongst CDH1-mutation carriers.

The study, supported by the BC Cancer Foundation and led by co-authors Samantha and Pardeep Kaurah, provides the first accurate risk estimates for individuals who carry CDH1 mutations through detailed analysis of 75 families with a strong family history of gastric cancer. The data will be used by genetic counselors to help families around the world determine which cancer risk reducing options are right for them.

Dr. David Huntsman, BC Cancer Agency and UBC Professor of Pathology and Obstetrics and Gynecology, and his team discovered the cause of the gastric cancers that had claimed the lives of many in Hansford's family and developed a genetic test to determine who was at risk of developing this disease. This test enabled family members who carry a CDH1 mutation to undergo a surgical prevention strategy, which saved the lives of Hansford's mother, grandmother and uncle.

"I'm so grateful for the work being done around the world and at the BC Cancer Agency. I thank them for my life because I'm not scared [of cancer] anymore. I thank people like my daughter and Dr. Huntsman, who are interested in knowing as much as they can about this horrible, killer disease," says Geralyn Hansford, who lost her sister Arleen to stomach cancer prior to learning about the hereditary genetic mutation.

The risk-analysis study, published JAMA Oncology, will help to inform whether or not preventative surgery is a life-saving option for those carrying mutations within the CDH1 gene.


cancer; BC Cancer Agency; Research; gastric cancer; genomics
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