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Tuesday, 16 May 2017 16:38

Genetics testing, potential new cases in OM probe

Written by  Lee Sullivan

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. — The scheduling of genetic counseling sessions with Carolina’s HealthCare System personnel — a precursor to blood sampling and other laboratory tests to be conducted by Invitae Corp. in Charlotte — have begun as the grant-funded search for clues concerning a cluster of rare ocular melanoma (OM) cases in the Huntersville area progresses.

Local OM patients and families are preparing to meet with a team from Carolinas HealthCare System’s Levine Cancer Institute, supervised by Lisa Amacker-North, to receive complementary insight on genetic counseling before they take part in blood analysis performed by the Invitae team led by Francheska Werner.

“They have started to make contact with patients and family members and we’re reaching out to make sure those targeted by the research know this next phase is beginning,” Dr. Michael Brennan, a retired ophthalmologist from Burlington who has helped organized a nationwide task force of physicians and researchers exploring the Huntersville cases, said early this week. “We’re working to coordinate schedules and finalize the arrangements to get this part of the research under way.”

Brennan added that he is providing regular updates to town officials about the research process — which is being funded by a $100,000 grant the town received from the state last summer — and following up on information about potential additions to the patient cohort involved in the multi-phase research.

Brennan also said his group has become aware of other uveal melanoma (eye cancer) patients that may fall within the location and timeline parameters the task force established when the research outline was created.

“I believe because more people are reading about this, and more conversations are being held, more people are coming forward,” Brennan said.

He said task force members will evaluate the other cases and decide if additions should be made to the existing 12-patient research pool. That original group of patients and families have already participated in interviews and provided biographical and geographical information for the geospatial analysis being prepared by environmental scientist John Cassels of Pennsylvania-based Geodesy Inc.

And Brennan said if additional patients are added to the project, they will be put in contact with Cassels to enhance his data collection.

“If there are other cases that should be included, we want all the details we can get,” Brennan said. And he added that anyone who has been diagnosed with uveal melanoma, or knows of someone with that diagnosis with a Huntersville-area connection, is urged to contact town officials.

Seeking info about David Hall

Related to the search to learn more about past and present ocular melanoma cases, anyone with information about former Davidson resident Lawrence David Hall is urged to contact Lee Sullivan at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Hall died in February 2007 at age 49. He was married to Kristi Hill Hall.

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