Could research funding into a rare cancer cluster in a tri-country area that includes Carbon, Schuylkill and Luzerne be cut?

The Community Action Committee (CAC) for the polycythemia vera cluster sent a news release to the media on Wednesday, speculating that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is considering slashing its research budget for the cluster by as much as $2.5 million.

The release came from Henry S. Cole, an independent consultant to the polycythemia vera CAC who has a history of dealing with environmental issues.

The CAC was established to promote public input into the CDC's investigative process.

Polycythemia vera is a rare blood disorder in which too many red cells are produced, causing a thickening of the blood. If unchecked, heart disease and stroke are potential results.

An unusually-high rate of incidence of the disease has been discovered within the region, including a larger than expected number along Ben Titus Road in Still Creek, Rush Township, Schuylkill County. More than 30 cases have been identified within the corridor between Tamaqua and Hazleton.

According to undisclosed CAC sources at the Centers for Disease Control, the CDC may be planning to cut $2.5 million in funding slated for investigations on the incidence and causes of polycythemia vera, mentioned the release.

Researchers have also found that a large majority of those with PV have tested positive for a mutation known as JAK-2 which appears to play a role in the onset of the cancer.

U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter obtained both the original $5 million for current studies and the $2.5 million in Fiscal Year 2011 for investigations into environmental exposures (air emissions and drinking water) and other critical work not included in the first round of studies.

CAC member, Carolyn Martienssen said in the release, "We can't afford to lose these studies. They are needed to determine what toxic chemicals people in the cancer cluster area are actually exposed to. CDC needs to keep its promise."

Dr. Peter Baddick, a Tamaqua area physician, has worked to call public attention to the polycythemia vera problem.

"What we have is an urgent medical epidemic that needs to be attended to," stated Baddick.

Joe Murphy, Hometown, a polycythemia vera activist and CAC member, added, "We appreciate that Sen. Specter pledged to bring us the science needed to get answers. We cannot let CDC break the promise and pull away before we get the answers. There are too many sick people here."