HUNTERSVILLE – The next phase in the effort to learn more about the statistically high occurrence rate of a rare eye cancer in north Mecklenburg begins Friday, May 18, at the first meeting of a new regional committee at Huntersville Town Hall.

At the urging of Mayor John Aneralla, representatives from neighboring towns and Mecklenburg County will join Huntersville officials and residents to evaluate details of completed ocular melanoma (OM) research and consider what other action to take.

“The goal is to figure out the next step,” Aneralla said. “I want to get everyone together and get input on what to do next.”

Huntersville commissioners Melinda Bales and Nick Walsh will join Aneralla on the committee. Aneralla said Cornelius Mayor Pro Tem Michael Miltich will participate, and Davidson Mayor Rusty Knox has asked a local oncologist to represent his town. Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jim Puckett will participate as will Rob Kidwell, a former Huntersville commissioner active in the OM cause.

The committee will also include Sara Lovett, epidemiologist with the Mecklenburg County Health Department, and Dr. Michael Brennan, a retired ophthalmologist from Burlington.

During the last four years, Brennan has helped coordinate what has become a nationwide coalition of medical specialists and researchers involved in the OM effort. The focus of OM research began in Huntersville and recently expanded to cases linked to Auburn University in Alabama. Brennan was scheduled to meet with an Auburn official last weekend at Duke University, and information from that exchange may be shared Friday.

Aneralla said Friday’s 9 a.m. public meeting is envisioned as an open discussion “focused on finding the best way to spend money” remaining from a $100,000 state research grant the town received two years ago. So far, funds have been invested in a historical analysis of the area, geospatial studies, genetic counseling and blood testing involving local OM patients and their families.

Researcher John Cassels delivered his geospatial review, which was pared down to include 15 cases, in April. Findings indicated OM links throughout north Mecklenburg, which convinced Aneralla to ask the other towns to be represented on the committee.

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