2009.05.02 – Specter announces approval of $5.5 million


Specter announces approval of $5.5 million in federal funding for researching cancer cluster

Published: Saturday, May 2, 2009 4:06 AM EDT

As a cancer survivor, U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., brought a message of hope Friday to those who live in an area where Luzerne, Carbon and Schuylkill counties meet and are suffering from a rare form of cancer.

And as a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, he brought money.

Specter met with a contingent of local doctors, citizens and public health officials Friday at Penn State Hazleton to announce congressional approval of $5.5 million in federal funding. The money will further research into an unusually high number of polycythemia vera diagnoses in an area surrounding Ben Titus Road between Tamaqua and McAdoo.

Polycythemia vera, or PV, is a rare disease in which too many red blood cells are made in the bone marrow. The blood becomes thick with cells, which can lead to numerous internal ailments including leukemia and abnormal bone marrow stem cells.

At the conclusion of a two-year study into 33 clinically confirmed cases of the rare cancer near Ben Titus Road, the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry last summer confirmed the statistical significance of PV diagnoses in the area.

Specter became involved in the Ben Titus Road issue in 2005 after touring the nearby McAdoo Associates Superfund site. He announced the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would partner with the Pennsylvania Department of Health to analyze regional statistics of PV.

The senator has returned to the Tamaqua and Hazleton areas several times since then to update residents on the progress of the investigation.

On Friday, Specter said the $5.5 million allocation would fund assessments of local PV trends and risk factors in the cancer cluster area, including those related to the environment.

mlight@standardspeaker.com, 570-455-3636