Medical experts visit AU to discuss rare eye cancer

AUBURN, AL (WTVM) – A rare eye cancer found in five people who attended Auburn University had medical experts visiting the area this weekend.

Five people who were at Auburn in the late 1980's and early 1990's have been diagnosed with Uveal Melanoma. Three of the individuals lived next to each other in a dorm. The other two were on campus around the same time.

Researchers from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia are looking into the cases in Auburn due to the number in the area.

"Because the cancer is so rare it isn't often that you find someone that knows someone that has this cancer or a college roommate that has this," said Marlana Orloff, a Medical Oncologist Thomas Jefferson University. "It was really that that made us think twice about what was going on."

Auburn is not the first city to see an unusual number of Uveal Melanoma diagnoses, Huntersville, North Carolina and Binghamton, New York have also been studied by these doctors.

One local optometrist says he has treated 15 individuals in Lee County with cancer, five of those he is currently treating.

Representatives from Auburn University attended the event Saturday to learn more about the University's role in these cases.

"There has been no causal connection and that is what I learned today," explained Auburn Executive Director for Risk Management and Safety, Christine Eick. "There is not a known cause or trigger for this very rare cancer."

Auburn University released the following statement:

"The university encourages spreading the word about uveal melanoma and all types of cancer and the need for early detection, and it welcomes the cancer researchers looking into this rare cancer. Our understanding is the scientific community has not yet established what causes it, and there is no known causal connection that would indicate any student or employee is in danger. The university would act immediately if it knew of any unsafe condition on campus. The health and safety of our students and employees are of utmost importance. Tests are available through optometrists or ophthalmologists for anyone wishing to be tested."

Allyson Allred is one of the patients diagnosed with Uveal Melanoma, and she wants people to know that she is not concerned about the university.

"My daughter is here now, Allred said. "She lives in one of the same dorms that I lived in. Each of us have had children here or have graduated from here so it hasn't been a concern. And it is so rare we don't know for sure that there is a cause or a link, we haven't found anything out like that. We had such a great experience here and want them to have the same experience. We are not fearful in having them here"

A support group has been formed to link together those in the area dealing with Uveal Melanoma, for more information you can visit their facebook page here. 

Copyright 2018 WTVM. All rights reserved. | For more news, download the WTVM app here.