Campaigning widow wins skin cancer drug fight

Paula and daughter Caitlin are all smiles after the ruling. Picture: JANE BARLOW
Paula and daughter Caitlin are all smiles after the ruling. Picture: JANE BARLOW
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A WIDOW has cried “tears of joy” after a drug which transformed her husband’s final months was made available to cancer patients throughout Scotland.

Scott McIntyre, who died in August last year aged just 39, was able to fulfil many of his ambitions after being placed on a trial for Zelboraf, which slows the progression of metastatic melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, and has been proven to improve quality of life.

His wife, Paula, who was able to marry Scott thanks to the huge improvement in his condition, suffered another devastating blow when the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) ruled that the drug would not be routinely offered to others on the NHS as it did not offer value for money.

But after she highlighted Scott’s case in the media and made a speech to MSPs at Holyrood in support of a Melanoma Action and Support Scotland (MASScot) drive to make Zelboraf freely available, a fresh application was this week waved through.

Mrs McIntyre, 37, of Colinton Mains, said today that learning of the decision was the “best Christmas present” she could have hoped for and that she had been left “overwhelmed” by the development.

“I can honestly say I’ll be smiling on Christmas Day,” said Mrs McIntyre, who has started a university counselling course so she can help others deal with tragedy.

“It’s such a nice thing to think Scott was part of the trial of a drug that will now help people across Scotland. Even as he went through what he did he tried to help others. For the first time, I’ve been able to cry tears of positivity rather than tears of grief.

“We’re all getting there slowly, beginning to see a wee bit of light at the end of the tunnel, and hearing this has been a big leap forward.”

Mr McIntyre, who worked as an IT officer for Dunedin Canmore Housing Association, was treated and given the all-clear for melanoma in 2005 after a cancerous mole was removed from his jawline.

However, in December 2011 a lump appeared in his neck and he was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma and told he had just months to live.

He was largely confined to bed until he started taking Zelboraf. The drug allowed him to get married and rattle through other tasks on his “bucket list”, including a holiday to Barcelona, attending the English FA Cup final and recording hours of video footage for his young step-daughter, Caitlin.

Remarkably, he was well enough to embark on a golf marathon, raising £16,000 for the Beatson Cancer Centre in Glasgow, where he was being treated. The drug is thought to have extended Mr McIntyre’s life by six months.

Leigh Smith, chair of 
MASScot, said: “We are delighted that Zelboraf has been approved for use in Scotland. We are aware from trials in which Scottish patients participated that Zelboraf can greatly improve the quality of life as well as extending it.”

daniel.sanderson@edinburghnews.com