We owe a lot to scientists like Henry Lynch


It is with great sadness that we note the passing (June 2, 2019; age 91) of Dr. Henry Lynch. Dr. Lynch almost singlehandedly brought attention to the genetic syndrome that bears his name. In 1913 Aldred Warthin (pathology chair at the University of Michigan) first described family “G”, the family of his seamstress who had told him that her family all dies of cancer. She herself succumbed to endometrial cancer. A plaque commemorating Dr. Warthin hangs down the hallway from my office at Michigan. His report fell into obscurity until the 1960s when Dr. Lynch arranged a reunion of family G in Ann Arbor, leading to a detailed update of the family in 1971. He recognized the autosomal dominance of the pedigree pattern.

Dr. John I. Allen

In 1973, C. Richard Boland, MD, AGAF (past AGA President), wrote a medical school thesis entitled “A Familial Cancer Syndrome” and subsequently published two papers in which he first used the term “Lynch syndrome (I and II). Dr. Boland (whose family also carried a Lynch syndrome variant) spent his career adding to our molecular and clinical knowledge about nonpolyposis colon cancer syndromes. In the 1990s Vogelstein and others first described the molecular pathways that lead to colon cancer – and the rest is history.

I was a young faculty gastroenterologist at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center when one day my phone rang; it was Henry Lynch. He wanted to alert me that one of his patients was coming to me for surveillance colonoscopy. He explained the importance of what I was to do and how I should follow this man. I was overwhelmed by his attention to his patient (one of thousands) and his kindness to me. I had the privilege of traveling with him as visiting professors on a trip to South America. He was one of the kindest, most intelligent, and gracious persons I had ever met. I never forgot that experience.

We owe a lot to scientists, clinicians, and thought leaders like Henry Lynch who provide us the scientific basis of the care we give our patients.

John I. Allen, MD, MBA, AGAF
Editor in Chief

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