Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Gastrointestinal Disease, Genetic Research, NIH / 30.04.2015

Dr. Steven Wank Interview with: Dr. Stephen Wank MD Digestive Diseases Branch, NIDDK National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? Dr. Wank: Small intestinal carcinoids are rare and difficult to diagnose because symptoms may be absent or mistaken for more common diseases. Because carcinoids usually grow slowly over several years before spreading or causing symptoms, patients often seek medical attention late with advanced, incurable disease. However, when diagnosed at an early stage, carcinoid can be surgically cured. Presently, there are no long-term effective therapies for surgically non-resectable disease. Although carcinoids occur sporadically, there have been reports of family clusters (more than one blood relative with carcinoid). Hereditary small intestinal carcinoid has not been recognized as a disease and causative genetic factors have not been identified in either sporadic cases or families with multiple affected members. If small intestinal carcinoid occurs in families on a hereditary basis, we hypothesized that asymptomatic relatives in families with carcinoid are at a high risk of harboring an undiscovered tumor. To test this, we established a clinical research protocol at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland to screen asymptomatic relatives in families with at least two cases of small intestinal carcinoid in the hope of detecting their tumors at an early surgically curable stage. If successful in our endeavor, we would improve the outcome of the disease in these asymptomatic relatives and position ourselves to discover the genetic basis for their disease. Understanding the gene mutations causing small intestinal carcinoid would allow us to screen for the disease with a blood test, help us understand what causes the disease, and treat the disease with specific targeted therapies. (more…)