RELENTLESS’ founder, Nathan (Nate) Shatsoff, who was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer at age 21 and passed away two and a half years later, was determined to find out why he, and other members of his family, developed potentially cancerous polyps at a very young age. Three major medical centers embarked on studies of the Shatsoff family to see if a genetic reason for the early onset polyposis could be identified. Though Nate did not live to see the results, the Yale Cancer Center found the gene, and the results of the study were published in the Cambridge University Press in 2016. The importance of the study is that it doesn’t just apply to the Shatsoff family, but could impact anyone whose family has a history of early onset colon cancer. You see, Nate’s grandfather (also named Nathan) died of colon cancer at age 39. This was the trigger that caused the four children of Nate’s grandfather to begin colonoscopies at age 35. But Nate was only 21 and it was very unlikely that someone so young could have contracted this disease.
The importance of the study is that the genetic mutation can be easily tested for with either a blood or saliva sample. Although the study speaks to this being more likely in Ashkenazic Jews, it’s applicability would not necessarily be limited to that group. In fact, other insular populations, think Iceland and Norway, might also find similar mutations. An abstract of the Cambridge article can be found here. The message though is clear. If you have any history of early onset colon cancer in your immediate or extended family, you should either get tested for the genetic mutation or get a colonoscopy. A summary of the study’s main points:Summary of Article in the Cambridge University Press – Genetic Study Rev. 01-17