Government shut down affects local man with cancer

Posted at: 10/03/2013 5:26 PM
By: Dan Bazile

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Robert Duncan, 67, went to Albany Memorial Hospital on Thursday for his regular blood transfusion treatment. He needs it for a rare form of bone marrow cancer he was diagnosed with back in 1995.

"If I were to stop transfusions, I wouldn't be here Thanksgiving," Duncan said.

The Schaghticoke man said doctors gave him less than two years to live nearly 19 years ago. He found a clinical trial that kept him alive without the blood transfusions. That treatment stopped working two years ago. He recently found another one. With the government shutdown, research at the National Institutes of Health on the drug that could make a big difference in his life is on hold.

"They can play any politics they want. They should not play politics with people's lives," he said.

Nationally, there are many patients who've run out of treatment options, taking part in clinical trials on life saving drugs at the NIH. Duncan was hoping for approval to be among them by mid October. Time is of the essence. He said the blood transfusion can only be temporary because it creates a different kind of fatal problem.

"So if I can't stop transfusions, that could kill me," Duncan told Newschannel 13. "If I can't get the treatment, that could also kill me."

But Duncan said he can't give up. He lost his wife to cancer this summer. She encouraged him to keep fighting.

"I need another 12 years here to carry on my wife's work and my work, to help in other clinical trials, to help save lives," he added.

Duncan is worried the research on the drug that could extend his life might be dropped altogether. He's called his local representatives, urging them to fund clinical research.



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