Local cancer fighter heads out of state for clinical trial - NEWS10 ABC: Albany, New York News, Weather, Sports

Local cancer fighter heads out of state for clinical trial

SCHAGHTICOKE, N.Y. -- A local cancer patient, whose treatments were jeopardized by the shutdown, boarded a plane for the National Institute of Health in Maryland on Monday.

Robert Duncan is one of only four people alive who have a rare type of cancer, and his entry into a clinical trial was put on hold because of the shutdown. 

After failing to get in touch with his local leaders, NEWS10 ABC's Marty Kasper took his concerns to his congressional representatives, and Duncan got the word last week that he would be able to take part.

Duncan's fight paid off Monday as he boarded a plane bound for Maryland.  Once there, he will begin his clinical trial and hopefully find a treatment that works -- but his fight is long from over.

The road to this point for Duncan has been uphill, he lost his wife, and he feared the government shutdown would delay or deny him treatment.

"It means I'll live and be able to go forward," he says.

Duncan will go through tests Tuesday morning and will then be told how his treatment schedule will play out.

"It's very mixed emotions," he says.

Mixed emotions because Duncan worries for those less fortunate than him, those who can't get accepted into NIH because of the continuing shutdown.

"It's literally life or death for some people," he explains. "For those people in very fragile conditions like myself, it's all they have."

NIH evaluates people for treatment every Tuesday, but since the shutdown up to 400 people have been turned away, missing their chance to be evaluated.  And on Tuesday, another group will miss their opportunity. 

"And you're talking about 100 to 200 people, that won't get their chance to even be evaluated," he says.

Congressman Chris Gibson has been following Duncan's story.

"We can have disagreements, but we have to recognize in matters of life and death that we absolutely need to come together," he says.

Gibson says he believes other cases like Duncan's exist, and that something needs to be done to protect those like Duncan who need life-saving treatment.

Duncan says it's time lawmakers put people first, and he plans to take that message to the country's capital.

"Follow you're oath, you were elected and you took an oath to serve the American people and the country," he says.

Duncan could return to the Capital Region as early as Tuesday night. 

You can follow Marty on Facebook and on Twitter. If you would like to contact Marty, please e-mail him at mkasper@news10.com.

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