Major Step in Fight to Find Cancer Cause

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. – Kenny Colbert’s mission is gaining steam. He says of the newest development, “That’s huge. It’s what we’ve been after for two years now.” More and more people are getting behind him, including the people here at a Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce event Friday.

Colbert wants to know why his daughter, Kenan, got a rare form of eye cancer, ocular melanoma, and died. He wants to know why 11 other people have also been diagnosed with the same disease, all of them tied to the Huntersville-area or Hopewell High School. Colbert says, “Things like this just don’t happen.”

He’s right. Ocular melanoma impacts five people out of a million per year. Typically those five people are older men. The cluster in the Huntersville area doesn’t fit that description.

“Finding so many patients are coming from the same town is very unusual,” agrees Dr. Kitty Gordon. She heads up the Department of Ophthamology at UNC Chapel Hill. She says, “There’s something that’s going on that we need to investigate further.”

It was just last month that CMS agreed to allow further investigation on the Hopewell campus in the form of environmental testing. WCCB News @ Ten anchor Morgan Fogarty asked district leaders again if there was any progress in that effort. Friday, a CMS spokeswoman emailed her to say they district has contracted with an independent third party firm called Hart Hickman. Hart Hickman will conduct a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment, which we’ve learned may or may not include soil or air testing. CMS tells us no date has been set for the assessment.

It’s too late for Kenan Colbert. She died almost two years ago. But it’s a step in the right direction for those Huntersville-area residents who know they have ocular melanoma now and those who may battle it in the future. Sue Colbert, Kenan’s mom says, “Ultimately, there can be that cause and cure, and that’ll do more for the legacy of our Kenan than anything could.”

CMS is paying for that testing. As soon as the district sets a date, we will let you know.