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Shutdown shuts out local man from clinical research

Fighting for his life in spite of the shutdown.  A local man has been counting on a federal program to possibly cure a rare form of cancer.  But, until lawmakers act, he cannot be a part of it.

People with rare illnesses rely on the National Institutes of Health clinical center in Bethesda, Maryland when they have no where else to turn.  Lawmakers have turned to it as a victim of the government shutdown.

That means one Schaghticoke man may have to wait longer to know if he can be part of a possibly life-saving program before it's too late.

"Get the politics out of the treatment of people in hospitals whose lives are at stake right now," Robert Duncan said.

It's a high ransom for a program Duncan says is held hostage by lawmakers.  This man has spent months being tested in order to get in to a research program at NIH.

"They really need to address this and look at what possibly can happen to even one person dying because they've done this at NIH," Duncan said.

Duncan has a rare form of bone marrow cancer.  We catch him between doctors appointments and a blood transfusion.  "It'll be my 283rd," Duncan said.  "I'm at a point where things have changed and they've got to find an alternative to treat me."

That research program may change his life. 

"Until I'm accepted down there, all bets are off right now," Duncan said.  "I've got to change that from being a visitor to a patient."

He was only given six to eighteen months to live, nearly twenty years ago.  He's hoping to have another chance -- and that others might too.

"The focus is not on me here," Duncan said.  "The focus is to get something accomplished that has great value, and it will save lives."

Duncan is in his late sixties.  He hopes even when he is gone, his work could continue.  None of that can happen now, so long as the shutdown shuts out new patients.  Nevertheless, Duncan continues to look forward.

"I want them to have my bone marrow samples so they can have that for the future," Duncan said.  "They can use that for experiments."

Duncan's wife passed away just a few months ago.  He thinks of her in his fight, as well, because she was one of his biggest supporters.
 
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