New drug, Vemurafenib, doubles survival of metastatic melanoma patients

A report published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that the 50 percent of metastatic melanoma patients with a specific genetic mutation benefit from the drug Vemurafenib – increasing median survival from about 6 months to 15.9 months. In patients who responded, the drug stopped cancer progression for a median 6.7 months.

"For patients with a BRAF V600 mutation, this drug is a breakthrough. Not a cure, but a major breakthrough," says Karl Lewis, MD, investigator at the University of Colorado Cancer Center, associate professor at the University of Colorado School of , and one of the study's authors.

Lewis notes that until about 18 months ago, no drug existed for metastatic melanoma — the most dangerous form of skin cancer — that was proven to extend survival past that of patients who chose not to treat the disease. The CU Cancer Center is a leading treatment center for metastatic melanoma, and has been instrumental in enrolling patients in trials of this new category of melanoma drugs — BRAF inhibitors.

The BRAF mutation is a known oncogene – a gene that when mutated causes cancer. Specifically, the BRAF V600 mutation signals a cell to grow without bounds. Vemurafenib is a BRAF inhibitor. The mutation turns cancer on and Vemurafenib turns it off.

And turning off BRAF in the approximately 100,000 patients diagnosed worldwide each year with BRAF-positive metastatic melanoma more than doubles their time of survival.

"Rarely do we see results this dramatic," says Lewis. "This represents a new standard of care for patients with harboring a BRAF mutation."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Researchers discover why new melanoma drug stops working

Nov 24, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- Research led by investigators at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center has identified a previously unknown mechanism of resistance to the newly approved melanoma drug, vemurafenib, an oral targeted therapy ...

Recommended for you

Putting the brakes on cancer

12 hours ago

A study led by the University of Dundee, in collaboration with researchers at our University, has uncovered an important role played by a tumour suppressor gene, helping scientists to better understand how ...

Peanut component linked to cancer spread

13 hours ago

Scientists at the University of Liverpool have found that a component of peanuts could encourage the spread and survival of cancer cells in the body.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.