Henry T. Lynch, MD, PhD, a groundbreaker in the field of cancer genetics, died in June 2019 at age 91. Dr. Lynch was founder and director of the Hereditary Cancer Center at the Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, Nebraska.
Lynch syndrome, the most common cancer genetic syndrome, is characterized by a predisposition to colon and other cancers and was named after Dr. Lynch in honor of his early work pioneering the field of hereditary cancer detection. In the late 1960s, Dr. Lynch was joined by other cancer geneticists like Frederick Li and Joseph Fraumeni, and then by a small group of others in the 1970s and 1980s (Knudson, King, Ponder, Skolnik, Miki, Wooster et al), all of whom went on to discover that certain cancers were, indeed, hereditary. Their research was initially viewed with skepticism, as the prevailing belief was that all cancers were caused by environmental factors. It wasn’t until the 1990s that the tiny field of cancer genetics, initiated by the persistence of Dr. Lynch, crystallized and started to grow.