Efforts Underway to Find Research Funding for Auburn University Ocular Melanoma Cases
We shared the story of Ashley McCrary. An Auburn University graduate who was diagnosed with a rare eye cancer, Ocular Melanoma.
Doctors from Philadelphia and North Carolina came to Auburn in February to see if there’s a connection.
Since then, 31 people have come forward, who attended or worked at Auburn University, from 1980 to the early 1990s, diagnosed with Ocular Melanoma.
There are also more cases of Ocular Melanoma in Alabama than any other state in the United States.
Now, they are trying to find some funding to do research on the rare eye cancer.
It first started at the state level. Alabama State Senator Larry Stutts tried to pass $100,000 through the education budget.
The legislature failed to approve the money.
They suggested Auburn University to take it on. They will not be funding it as well.
Senator Stutts said he’s not going to give up on this and make sure the University follows through.
“My efforts in the State Senate is to make sure the issue doesn’t get pushed to the back burner and legitimate research is conducted and there will be the funding to do so. I met with representatives from Auburn University last week and I’m confident they will step up and ensure this goes through,” said Sen. Stutts.
Dr. Frederick Kam, Executive Medical Director of Auburn University’s Medical Clinic, said he’ll lead a committee to find out why so many people in Auburn were diagnosed.
“This is not a good type of cancer for a person to have. There’s no known cause, which makes it more challenging. So, I strongly believe and Auburn University strongly believes we need to be involved and help with the process because it’s the right thing to do and we will continue to pursue those efforts,” said Dr. Kam.
They are in the process of forming a committee of physicians interested and knowledgeable about this cancer from UAB, to Philadelphia, even doctors at the state level, to North Carolina and here locally.
“Then they are going to see when were these people here, what did they major in, where did they live, where did the work and then go forward from there,” said McCrary, who was diagnosed with Ocular Melanoma in 2012.
McCrary will also be on this committee.
“I think it’s gonna save lives and I hope we can find out information for treatment or a cure. It’s humbling to be a part of this and make a difference,” said McCrary.
McCrary adds they are also working with Justin George, Alabama’s Director of Cancer Epidemiology.
From there, they are going to see if the State Health Department, the Governor’s office, the CDC, National Cancer Institute or another entity will fund this research.
“There’s no reason to cause any fear because we don’t know. We don’t know if there’s any causal factor for this type of cancer from the number of people that went to Auburn University, we don’t know. But, we want to help find out and if something did cause it let’s fix it. Let’s do something to make sure this doesn’t affect anyone else,” said McCrary.
They are confident that the information they gather and the committee working on this, will finally bring some answers and the money they need to start the research.
“I have a lot of confidence in the people who will join this committee and that it won’t fall through the cracks. We will get the funding we need. We just need to find out who it’s going to come from,” said McCrary.
There are also studies going on in Huntersville, North Carolina and Albany, New York. Two other areas with high numbers of Ocular Melanoma. North Carolina has dedicated $100,000 to research the cases there.