Dying man's wait for news on life-extending drug


Murray Crockett survived prostate cancer, only to be diagnosed with advanced melanoma. Now he is hanging on to the hope that he can be given a new drug.


But he's been waiting for more than nine weeks for a decision from GlaxoSmithKline on whether it will put him on the free programme to take its experimental drug dabrafenib.


Nine weeks is a long time for someone who counts his life expectancy in months.


Mr Crockett, a 1970s world champion yachtsman and now an architectural designer, aged 66, describes himself as a strong, confident, pragmatic man.


But the melanoma that spread from a mole on his left shoulder to his ribs, lungs and spine has brought him low. "I'm extremely fit and active - and I have been felled.


"I'm completely stuffed now. I can't do anything physical. I'm having trouble putting my socks on in the morning. If I sit down a while it hurts. When I move to get up it's like a knife going into me."


His skin is olive and although his yachting and athletics years exposed him to a lot of sunlight, he doesn't recall experiencing a lot of sunburn.


He had kept an eye on the mole for more than 15 years. In February last year, after it quickly changed, becoming red and crusty, it was cut out and diagnosed as melanoma.


A linked lymph node in the left armpit was sampled and found - at the time - to be negative for cancer. Regular check-ups followed, resulting, three months ago, in a lump being found in a lymph node.


Mr Crockett said the 2011 lymph node biopsy was rechecked and declared positive, revealing earlier laboratory "incompetence" which meant he had lost an opportunity for more extensive surgery that might have cured him.


"[Surgeon Richard Martin] ordered a PET scan and I lit up like a Christmas tree. I only had two tumours in my ribs at that stage, there were a couple of spots in my spine and innumerable in my lungs and lymph nodes. I went straight to stage 4 melanoma, which is terminal."


Mr Crockett, who lives in Warkworth with his partner, has two children and a grandson, and his parents are in their 90s.


He was told he couldn't have the standard chemotherapy treatment because he had ESBL, bacteria he had picked up in a hospital stay.


He paid $4300 for a tissue test which showed he was positive for the gene mutation that means his tumours may be susceptible to dabrafenib.


Now the uncertainty of the wait for the drug company's decision is "getting into my head".


"While I'm waiting I can't really do anything. I want to take that pill as soon as I can."

- THE AUCKLANDER

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