Huntersville rare eye cancer mystery faces new challenge

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. — The investigation into what has caused several cases of a rare ocular melanoma in Huntersville has hit a roadblock.

A Channel 9 investigation first exposed the eye cancer cluster in 2014. Ocular melanoma affects only five people in one million, but at least a half-dozen cases have been found among people who have either lived or worked in Huntersville. There’s still no known cause.

Past coverage of eye cancer cluster in Huntersville: 

“It’s going to be a long, long path, and we just have to keep moving down that road until we get the answers,” said Huntersville town commissioner Rob Kidwell.

In the quest to find the cause, researchers started looking at the soil around Hopewell High School, where many of the cases surfaced several years ago.

But recently, researchers issued a letter to the town, stating that they can’t prove if any one chemical causes ocular melanoma.

Kidwell said the research still helps.

“We say, ‘OK, that’s some information. Now, what’s our next steps?’” Kidwell said.

Channel 9 called Kenny Colbert, who lost his daughter from ocular melanoma in 2014 at 28 years old, to talk to him about the recent letter from researchers. He happened to be at a conference in Washington D.C. where doctors gave information about the cancer and new research that has come out about the disease.

[IMAGES: Victims in Huntersville with eye cancer]

Colbert was once an advocate for soil testing, but now he supports genetic testing before looking to the environment.

“We need to start at ground level zero and see what do these people have in common,” Colbert said.

Kidwell said that soil testing is not off the table, but that researchers must dig deeper into finding a cause.

He said that the town has gone through about $5,000 of a $100,000 state grant, but he added that even if they run out of money, they won’t stop searching for a cause.

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