Huntersville community discusses next steps in rare eye cancer cases

Huntersville community discusses next steps in rare eye cancer cases

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. — The Huntersville community met Friday morning to discuss the next steps in trying to find a common link for rare eye cancer cases in the area.

Channel 9 first broke the alarming medical mystery in 2014 and now, the mayor of Huntersville said he is working with town and county commissioners to start a new round of research into the eye cancer cases.

[Researchers study tumors, hope to find link to rare eye cancer cases in Huntersville]

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There are still no answers after five years and 20 cases.

At Friday’s meeting, the mayor said it is time to start testing the soil for heavy metals. Genetic testing is also underway in patients now.

The town doesn’t think it will provide any answers, so it’s going to try and look for a cause in the environment next.

The mayor said it’ll take more money, so he’s hoping to get approve to start new tests this spring.

Ocular melanoma is usually found in five in 1 million people. However, there are more than 20 cases of the rare cancer in Lake Norman.

Three of the most serious cases have been tied to Hopewell High School, including Colbert's daughter who was a student there.  

“In May it will be five years since our daughter passed away, and as each speaker speaks I think it’s not their daughter, so we need to keep going, keep looking, keep moving forward,” Colbert said. 

Colbert and a handful of local politicians and parents gathered at Huntersville's Town Hall on Tuesday morning to listen as researchers and doctors gave an update on the search for the cause of the cancer. 

Duke Energy also answered questions. 

Reporter Mark Barber asked spokesman Bill Norton, “Is it possible that Duke Energy’s operations and coal ash basins in Lake Norman are contributing to the cancer cluster?" Norton responded by saying, "So the great thing we have is extensive science around our coal ash basins that shows exactly where it’s going and it has not impacted anyone’s drinking water supplies."


Despite Duke Energy's efforts to try to reassure citizens, several families weren't satisfied with the answers. 

The town has already mapped out where the cancer clusters are. 

Doctors at Columbia University are also running tests on patients’ tumors but that isn't expected to provide answers about a cause, so Huntersville Mayor John Aneralla is asking town and county commissioners to help fund more research that would show if coal ash or heavy metals are tied to the hotspots. 

Barber asked Aneralla, “Is the county willing to split the costs for that additional testing?" In response, the mayor explained, "I have talked to the county manager and I have talked to two commissioners and we had a commissioner here today. I think there is a willingness to discuss it."

Aneralla says he is hoping to get approval and money from commissioners within the next two months so they can start the new tests this spring. 

Sue Colbert said her family isn't giving up.

She said, “We’re fighting for Kenan and all of the other patients and she is always in the forefront of this fight. We want to make sure we have a safe community for other generations.”

There is a similar eye cancer cluster in Alabama and now a new one has also appeared in Texas, so local researchers are trying to work with doctors in other states as well. 

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