NJ cluster of brain cancer prompts investigation

Hill: Brain tumors, relative to other types of cancer, are typically rare but can be very lethal. So, would you take us through what is known so far about this cluster? How many people do we mean here?

Stanmyre: Right now, the number this week is up to 117 people who have been found to have a primary brain tumor of some sorts, according to data from Al Lupiano, who is the Colonia graduate who has kind of spearheaded all of this. And there are many different forms of these cancers.

They all attended or worked at Colonia High School — most of them during the years of 1972 to 2000. There have been some outlier cases. A graduate as recent as 2014 was found to have a primary brain tumor.

Some of these are non-cancerous, yet very debilitating forms of brain tumor. Some are the most awful worst kinds of brain cancer. You can find glioblastoma, which are terminal.

That’s a huge number for such a small region. But I want to be careful to say that it’s very early in the investigation. How did this incident come to light in the first place?

This all began last year when Al Lupiano made a startling discovery.

His wife was diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma, which is a benign brain tumor and is the exact same brain tumor that Al Lupiano himself was diagnosed with 22 years ago.

The couple’s neurologist was baffled. He said in 40 years of neurology, he had never heard of a married couple that both had the same type of primary brain tumor. It’s just that rare. They said it was about a one in a billion odds.

Then making matters even worse, the same day that Michelle Lupiano (Al’s wife) was diagnosed with her brain tumor, Al’s sister Angela DeCillis was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor. Unfortunately, hers was terminal, and she died in February.

This all came to fruition in August of last year, and it just startled Lupiano. He said, “What are the odds of this?” It’s exceeding one in a billion that three people — this closely tied together— would all have brain tumors. When he started digging and looking for a link, the common link was Colonia High School.

What treatments are available for the afflicted?

There’s a vast array of treatments, but again, we’re dealing with so many different types of primary brain tumors here that they’re all treated very differently.

Some are incredibly aggressive forms of cancer that need very aggressive forms of treatment. Others are benign and very slow-growing that are going to use a different kind of treatment altogether.

Is the school built on some kind of a dumpsite? What steps are investigators taking to try to figure this out?

The community is absolutely unnerved and absolutely terrified by what’s going on here. The municipal council in Woodbridge, which oversees Colonia High School, approved an emergency contract earlier this month to start radiological testing of the grounds at the high school.

So that has already begun. They’ve placed canisters inside the school. They’re testing the air for radon. They are testing the grounds outside and inside of the high school inside. This is the preliminary step that they’re taking to see if they can find anything.

There’s no telling if they’re going to find answers here. There may need to be other steps taken. They may need to excavate soil underneath the school.

No one knows exactly what it is. There’s a lot of speculation running rampant about what could be causing this, but to date, there has been nothing found.

Source : https://gothamist.com/news/nj-cluster-of-brain-cancer-prompts-investigation

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