New drug, Vemurafenib, doubles survival of metastatic melanoma patients

March 1, 2012

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."

Explore further: New melanoma drug Zelboraf nearly doubles survival in majority of patients

Related Stories

New melanoma drug Zelboraf nearly doubles survival in majority of patients

February 22, 2012
Investigators from Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC) and 12 other centers in the United States and Australia have found that a new drug for patients with metastatic melanoma nearly doubled median overall survival.

Study uncovers mechanism by which melanoma drug accelerates secondary skin cancers

January 18, 2012
Patients with metastatic melanoma taking the recently approved drug vemurafenib (Zelboraf) responded well to the twice daily pill, but some of them developed a different, secondary skin cancer. Now, researchers at UCLA's ...

Researchers discover why new melanoma drug stops working

November 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 ...

Panel of melanoma mutations opens door to new treatment possibilities

November 15, 2011
Researchers have developed a new genetic screening tool that will aid in the investigation of possible treatments for patients with melanoma and the unique genetic mutations that may accompany the disease, according to data ...

Recommended for you

Shooting the achilles heel of nervous system cancers

July 20, 2017
Virtually all cancer treatments used today also damage normal cells, causing the toxic side effects associated with cancer treatment. A cooperative research team led by researchers at Dartmouth's Norris Cotton Cancer Center ...

Molecular changes with age in normal breast tissue are linked to cancer-related changes

July 20, 2017
Several known factors are associated with a higher risk of breast cancer including increasing age, being overweight after menopause, alcohol intake, and family history. However, the underlying biologic mechanisms through ...

Immune-cell numbers predict response to combination immunotherapy in melanoma

July 20, 2017
Whether a melanoma patient will better respond to a single immunotherapy drug or two in combination depends on the abundance of certain white blood cells within their tumors, according to a new study conducted by UC San Francisco ...

Discovery could lead to better results for patients undergoing radiation

July 19, 2017
More than half of cancer patients undergo radiotherapy, in which high doses of radiation are aimed at diseased tissue to kill cancer cells. But due to a phenomenon known as radiation-induced bystander effect (RIBE), in which ...

Definitive genomic study reveals alterations driving most medulloblastoma brain tumors

July 19, 2017
The most comprehensive analysis yet of medulloblastoma has identified genomic changes responsible for more than 75 percent of the brain tumors, including two new suspected cancer genes that were found exclusively in the least ...

Novel CRISPR-Cas9 screening enables discovery of new targets to aid cancer immunotherapy

July 19, 2017
A novel screening method developed by a team at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center—using CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology to test the function of thousands of tumor genes in mice—has ...

0 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.