Former students wonder if their brain tumors are linked to their New Jersey high school

A total of 104 former students and faculty with brain tumors responded to a Facebook post.

ByChantee Lans KTRK logo
Tuesday, April 19, 2022
Over 100 former NJ students, staff diagnosed with rare brain tumor
All the affected attended Colonia High School in Woodbridge, dating back decades

WOODBRIDGE TWP., New Jersey -- Al Lupiano graduated from Colonia High School in Woodbridge Township, New Jersey in 1989.

His wife Michelle graduated in 1991. His sister Angela Decillis graduated in 1995.

All three were diagnosed with a brain tumor. He was diagnosed 20 years ago. His wife and sister found out on the same day last August - two hours apart.

On Feb. 17, Angela died from Glioblastoma Multiforme or GBM.

"I had told my sister from the very beginning that there was too much of a coincidence that me, my wife and her all have the same tumor," Lupiano said.

Lupiano, an environmental scientist and industrial engineer, picked up on a trend.

"I had recalled two family friends, the Black sisters, had also passed of these brain tumors," Lupiano said. "That started setting off bells and whistles in my head."

Lupiano started researching. He made a public plea on Facebook to anyone from the school who was diagnosed with primary brain tumors.

"I need your help Facebook. If you were affected or have a tumor or rare cancer, I need your assistance," his Facebook post read.

Thanks to social media, Lupiano found a total of 104 former students and faculty with brain tumors - about half are cancerous.

Jason Wisinksi lost his wife Janice 10 years ago to an inoperable brain tumor called Anaplastic Astrocytoma.

"My wife fought like crazy. At the time, the medium lifespan for her type of tumor was 18 months. She made it five years," said Jason Wisinski.

Janice's sister Chery Black also died from brain cancer in 2015.

They learned of their tumors eight days apart.

Janice was pregnant with her and Jason's only child.

"My wife was awesome, and I think about her every day - I talk to her all the time," Wisinski said.

Both sisters were graduates of Colonia High School.

"It's alarming because there are just so many people with a tumor - malignant or benign, and it's serious. We have to really take a look at it," said Woodbridge Township Mayor John McCormac.

Environmental engineering firm T+M Associates has been contracted by the township to test for radiation on the grounds of the high school, which was built in 1967.

McCormac says last Saturday, environmentalists placed random canisters inside the school to collect air samples.

As the school remains open during the investigation, some students are concerned.

"We're just going to wait to find out. Obviously, everyone's praying and hoping for the best," said Colonia High School junior Julia Pagnozzi.

The environmental testing is expected to last a month.

Mayor McCormac says the Environmental Protection Agency is now involved. Our sister station WABC-TV has reached out to the EPA for comment.

Medical experts are urging caution but also advising that there is no need for residents to panic.

"It's certainly concerning because the rate of primary brain tumors is certainly higher than what we would expect in the general population," said Dr. Arif Kamal, Chief Patient Officer at the American Cancer Society.

Kamal added that there needs to be a full investigation to understand if these cancers are linked, and if there's a specific cause. He emphasized that there's no need for residents in the community to go get emergency cancer imaging scans immediately.