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New Legislation Introduced to Fund Ocular Melanoma Research in North Carolina

Thursday, May 20, 2020 – This week new legislation was introduced in the North Carolina State Senate to fund further research into the incidence of ocular melanoma in the area surrounding Huntersville, NC. Senator Natasha Marcus is the primary sponsor of An Act Appropriating Funds to Study and Abate Ocular Melanoma in Northern Mecklenburg County (NC), which includes $100,000 in funding from the Department of Health and Human Services to be allocated to the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. The grant would fund the study of potential causes of and solutions for abating ocular melanoma in the towns of Huntersville and Cornelius and the surrounding area.

Ocular melanoma is considered an ultra-rare disease that affects about six in one million people each year. But in the Huntersville area alone there are over 20 diagnosed cases, warranting further investigation into the elevated incidence rate. Ocular melanoma most commonly affects individuals over the age of 50 yet all but four patients in this area were under 50, with seven being younger than 32. This disease metastasizes (spreads) in about half of all cases, most commonly to the liver. Currently, there is no known cure for metastatic ocular melanoma with a median survival rate after metastatic diagnosis being nine months. There have been a few studies in the past testing environmental causes that have come back inconclusive. This new investigation would bring hope to those living in the area where this cluster of ocular melanoma cases has plagued the Huntersville community.

The Nicholas School, in cooperation with the North Carolina Policy Collaboratory at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will submit a report of their results, including any proposed legislation, to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services on or before December 1, 2021.

As a committed advocate for the melanoma community, we continue to fight for the ocular melanoma community to bring awareness to this disease and the need for a cure.