Carrying a genetic mutation linked to a form of hereditary stomach cancer is hardly something to celebrate, but this Sunday more than a dozen people from families carrying the mutation will be lacing up their running shoes to participate in the Tely 10 Road Race. With them will be researcher Dr. David Huntsman, a 1998 alumnus of Memorial University’s medical school based at the BC Cancer Agency in Vancouver, plus genetic counselors Andree MacMillan, based in St. John’s and Ivy Lewis from Corner Brook.
Team members will be sporting lime green shirts with “Team Stomach” on them. While many of the family members will be walking the course, one person running had his stomach removed last year as a preventive measure.
The type of hereditary stomach cancer being studied by Dr. Huntsman is almost two times as high in Newfoundland and Labrador than in the rest of Canada. About 70 per cent of people with the gene mutation go on to develop stomach cancer.
The mutation is life-threatening for people who have it. Gastric cancer is extremely difficult to diagnose and is usually incurable once it is advanced enough to be detected.
But if a blood test reveals individuals carry the defective gene, they can make decisions about preventive treatment such as stomach removal.