Doctors, patients discuss possible causes, cures for deadly eye cancer in Raleigh

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. — Doctors, patients and families from around the country gathered together this weekend in Raleigh to try to find a cause and a cure for a rare but deadly eye cancer: ocular melanoma.

The three-day symposium is dedicated to sharing research, identifying the cause of the cluster and searching for a cure.

The organization, Cure Ocular Melanoma, said they picked North Carolina to gather patients and doctors together specifically because of the alarming cases covered in Huntersville. Also, more than 30 people in Auburn, Alabama have also battled the rare eye cancer.

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There have been 20 cases of ocular melanoma in the Huntersville area.

Leaders pushed for funding to conduct tests from digging into patient history for links to testing the tissue of eye cancer tumors, and now they want to check the environment.

Scientists have performed genetic tests and mapped out patient's pasts without finding a definitive link. They said they are now waiting on results from tumor DNA tests.

A new Senate bill that would give $100,000 to ocular melanoma research in Huntersville is also in the works.

Another issue discussed at the meeting was enhancing cancer registries to make sure states are better reporting and tracking cases and communicating with each other. The information could be crucial in solving why so many people are getting the eye cancer.

>>Channel 9 knows how much this issue matters to everyone in our community, so we sent Eyewitness News anchor Allison Latos to Raleigh for the conference. She will bring you a full
report, on Eyewitness News at 11 p.m.

Sue Hunt told Channel 9's Allison Latos she lived in Huntersville for years with no health issues until a routine eye exam in 2009 found ocular melanoma. She is one of 20 people in the area with the cancer.

"It was scary," Hunt said. "All of a sudden, you're hearing stories of more cases of it in Huntersville, made it even more upsetting."

Ashley McCrary from Auburn, Alabama said it was her friend who noticed a black spot on her eye, which ultimately led to a diagnosis. 

"I want to get the word out," McCrary said. "When I told my doctor I knew two other people he said 'That's impossible, this is so rare.' I said 'No, we all went to Auburn together.'" 

She said she hopes that this effort to share research methods, findings, and resources will help current patients cope and ultimately, find a cure. 

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