Remembering Dr. Lynch

Remembering Dr. Lynch

The man who changed the way the world looked at cancer, Henry T. Lynch, MD, known to many as “the father of hereditary cancer detection and prevention,” died June 2, 2019, at the age of 91.

Lynch was the founder and director of the Hereditary Cancer Center at Creighton University, which opened in 1984, and dedicated his life to cancer research, especially hereditary cancers. Lynch studied the cancer histories of more than 3,000 families in his more than 50-year career tracking the genetic linkages in certain forms of cancer.

Lynch began studying potential hereditary causes of nonpolyposis colon cancer in the 1960s, when medical orthodoxy said that cancer was not a hereditary disease.

In 1984, the term “Lynch syndrome” was coined to recognize his contributions in identifying the strain of hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer. His identification of the Lynch syndrome, provided a more accurate prediction of a patient’s risk for the disease, allowing for earlier detection and treatment.

In addition, Lynch was the first in the world to discover the hereditary breast-ovarian cancer syndrome, a finding that affects countless hereditary breast-ovarian cancer-prone families. This discovery led to the identification of BRCA mutations for diagnosis of hereditary breast cancer.

Lynch came to Creighton in 1967 and, in addition to his work with the Hereditary Cancer Center, served as chairman of Creighton’s Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health. In 2004, he was named the inaugural holder of the Charles F. and Mary C. Heider Endowed Chair in Cancer Research. He lectured nationally and internationally, and was widely recognized for his groundbreaking work.

In May 2019, he was honored by OncLive as one of 15 “Giants of Cancer Care.” In 2017, he was presented the inaugural Luminary Award from the Ruesch Center for the Cure of Gastrointestinal Cancers. He was awarded a distinguished “fellowship” designation from the American College of Physicians (ACP) and the Walter J. O’Donohue Award from the ACP’s state chapter. In 2015, the Dr. Henry T. Lynch Symposium was held in Omaha, as both a tribute to the Creighton researcher and as an international gathering of scientists in hereditary cancer.

The Jane and Henry Lynch Endowed Research Fund was established in 2016 to provide financial support for research conducted by the Hereditary Cancer Center in the School of Medicine.

Watch a recording of the funeral Mass, held on June 10 at St. John’s Church on Creighton’s campus, here.