'Save Locky's Dad'
Watch the video produced by the campaign to provide Nick Auden access to the PD1 drug on a compassionate basis. (Video courtesy of www.savelockysdad.com)PT3M25S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2t6us 620 349 September 5, 2013
Leading businessman Ron Walker is supporting an Australian father's extraordinary campaign to access the same promising melanoma drug that may have saved his life.
On Wednesday, the Australian Grand Prix boss said he was using "whatever influence" he had to help the "Save Locky's Dad" campaign – an online petition for Nick Auden to access one of the new "PD-1" cancer drugs that Merck and Bristol-Myers Squibb are developing.
Mr Auden, a Melbourne born father of three who has advanced melanoma, is in an agonising position. The 40-year-old has been told he has just weeks to live at a time when two breakthrough drugs are shrinking tumours in scores of people in clinical trials.
Nick Auden with wife Amy and children, Locky (7), Hayley (5), and Evan (1). Photo: Catherine Sutherland
But unlike Mr Walker, Mr Auden has not qualified for one of the trials, so he is lobbying the companies to give him "compassionate" access. Over the last two weeks, his Change.Org petition has received nearly 200,000 signatures and the support of comedians Ricky Gervais and Sarah Silverman.
Hawthorn footballers Jack Gunston and Sam Mitchell have also signed the petition after learning the Auden family were Hawks fans. Mitchell also telephoned Mr Auden's seven-year-old son Lachlan for a supportive chat this week.
Mr Walker, who flew to Los Angeles for Merck's clinical trial of PD-1 drug Lambrolizumab to combat melanoma and non-small-cell lung cancer, said he was doing whatever he could to help Mr Auden access the same drug. He said leading cancer specialists who had cared for him were also trying to get Mr Auden the treatment which is shrinking tumours in about half the people who take it.
"Anybody who knows anyone is doing what they can to save his life at the moment," said the former Lord Mayor of Melbourne.
"I haven't interfered with all the scientists involved... but whatever influence any of us have got, we're using it at the moment to try to convince Merck to give him the drug."
"I'm one of the lucky ones who got on to a trial early in the piece and I know how successful it has been for me. It doesn't necessarily mean it will be successful for everyone, but it has certainly worked a miracle for me."
But so far, Merck and Bristol-Myers Squibb, have declined Mr Auden's plea. Spokespeople for both companies said they would not comment on Mr Auden's case, but were working on expanding access to their drugs as soon as possible.
A spokeswoman for Merck said the company was evaluating how it could provide expanded access to people outside of clinical trials, but she would not provide dates for when that might happen.
A spokeswoman for BMS said although it sometimes allowed drugs to be used outside of clinical trials in late stage development, it was too early to do this with its PD-1 drug nivolumab.
"While nivolumab has demonstrated potential based on early (Phase 1) data, there is not enough information on its use in humans at any given dose to establish a benefit / risk profile that would support its use outside of a well-controlled clinical trial," she said.
But one of Australia's leading cancer specialists, Professor Grant McArthur, disagreed. Last week, he told Fairfax Media that one of the companies should give Mr Auden its drug.
Professor McArthur said although research was still building, there was enough evidence to show they were potentially life-saving treatments that shrank tumours in half the people who took them. In some cases, tumours had been eliminated.
"They are the most promising treatment we've ever seen for this disease."