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Toronto man who fought for access to experimental drug succumbs to melanoma

Cancer patient Darcy Doherty, along with his wife Rebecca Cumming, is photographed at his home in Toronto, Ont. Wednesday, May 30/2012.

Kevin Van Paassen/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and

A Toronto man who fought to get access to an experimental cancer drug has died of melanoma.

Friends and family of Darcy Doherty, 48, battled drug giant Bristol-Myers Squibb for compassionate access to a new drug called BMS-936558, which is in early stages of development. The company declined the request arguing the drug was not yet ready even though early testing had shown promising results.

Drug companies do provide some compassionate access to experimental medicine but only on a case-by-case basis and usually later in the testing process. Mr Doherty's family waged a public campaign to push Bristol-Myers to back down. That included a petition with more than 190,000 signatures, an email campaign and several videos.

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"Darcy was a very special person and we will miss him greatly," his wife, Rebecca Cumming, said in a statement.

"He remains an inspiration to our family and many others whose lives have been touched by cancer. "

First diagnosed in 2003, Mr Doherty received the devastating diagnosis that his cancer had metastasized to his lungs and brain in 2007.

His doctor gave him only a few months to live.

However, he soon joined a clinical trial for the immunotherapy drug, ipilimumab (now called Yervoy) and enjoyed over four more years of quality life with few side effects.

The effects of that drug lessened by the end of 2011 and Mr Doherty was hoping the new BMS drug would be effective.

"I want to thank all the people who supported our family through this struggle over the past weeks and months by sending us their warm wishes, love and prayers, including everyone who signed our petition and followed us on Facebook," Ms Cumming added.

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"We always remained hopeful that BMS would change its mind and Darcy would have another miracle. Sadly, that did not happen."

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