Cancer patients, research at risk amid government shutdown

Cancer patients, research at risk amid government shutdown »Play Video
SEATTLE - The freeze on federal money also seriously affects cancer patients, and the work of researchers developing new treatments.

With no federal funding, no bodies sit in the chairs that answer phones at the Cancer Information Center. And, the office at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is supposed to be filled with 85 people taking phone calls from cancer patients and their families.

"People are being diagnosed today, but we're not here to answer their questions and it's pretty devastating for us," Nancy Zbaren with the Cancer Information Center says.

While Zbaren and her staff wait for Congressional help, they're trying to figure out how to pay their bills. And, cancer patients have to find some place else to have their critically sensitive and timely questions answered.

"When you are diagnosed with cancer, you want someone to help you figure out what you're going to do," Zbaren says.

The shutdown has also put critical medical research at risk. Dr. Conrad Liles oversees 900 faculty at the University of Washington, a huge bio-medical research facility whose work reaches across the globe.

"The labs will continue to operate at this point," Dr. Liles says. "How long they can operate without continued federal money I don't know."

Dr. Liles says he will have to dip in to reserves to keep the bio-medical research going, and if the shutdown drags on, doctors say it could have serious life or death consequences.

The sequestration already squeezed medical grants, and now, no new applications are being considered as federal employees are all off work.