Fred Hutchinson warns sequester could cost lives

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by ELISA HAHN / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @ElisaHahnK5

KING5.com

Posted on April 30, 2013 at 6:56 PM

Updated Tuesday, Apr 30 at 6:56 PM

Senator Patty Murray looked inside a liquid nitrogen vault that holds more than a thousand cancer patient tissue samples. It was part of a personal tour she received at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Researchers are manipulating the samples to see if they can use a body's own defenses to fight cancer. The cells are "trained" by researchers then put back into the patient, then tested to see if the cells will kill the tumor.

The work impressed Senator Murray.

"So each patient is unique, you figure out what works for them, and put their cells back in and it targets cancer?" Murray asked a researcher.

"Exactly," said Dr. Aude Chapuis, the research associate giving her the tour.

"And [Chapuis] says this is going to replace chemotherapy one day," said Murray.

It is expensive and time consuming research. Few private companies can afford it. 75 percent of their funding comes from the National Institute of Health, grants facing heavy cuts because of the sequester.

Layoffs could have a lasting impact.

"We're laying off someone who has had years of training, becomes of part of that research, and once they go and get another job, they're lost to us," said Dr. Fred Appelbaum, senior vice president and director of the Clinical Research Division.

"I'm deeply concerned that the message in Washington, D.C. has been 'Oh the sequestration. A few airport lines. We fixed it. Keep going,'" said Murray.

It's not just losing jobs; it's losing lives.

"Less money for us means treating less patients, not saving the lives that we can save," said Chapuis.

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