NRAS Mutation in Melanoma: A Challenging Target


Among melanomas, BRAF-mutated disease gets the vast majority of attention. Fifty percent of melanomas harbor BRAF mutations, which can be targeted with BRAF inhibitors. However, despite its notoriety, BRAF is not the only important melanoma mutation.

Another melanoma-linked mutation can be found in the NRAS gene. Like BRAF mutations, NRAS mutations are ‘driver mutations’—a tumor with an NRAS mutation is dependent on the mutation for its growth and survival. Continue reading…


Multidisciplinary Team Tackles Personalized Medicine for Melanoma Patients with Normal BRAF Gene


A group of melanoma researchers and clinicians have received funding to address an important question in melanoma treatment: are there molecular targets for melanomas that do not harbor a mutation in the BRAF gene? And can we identify drug candidates for these new molecular targets? The Stand Up to Cancer (SUC2) philanthropic program and the Melanoma Research Alliance are jointly funding the 3-year, eight-institution endeavor. Continue reading…


Diabetes Plus Anticancer Drug Combination Targets Melanoma Cells Unresponsive to Standard Treatments


Researchers at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, recently developed a combination approach to target melanoma tumor cells that are particularly resistant to both chemotherapy and targeted therapies, such as vemurafenib. A combination of anti-melanoma drugs with an anti-diabetes drug was better able to target all of the cells in a tumor than the anti-melanoma drugs alone. The combination therapy even proved effective against cells that are usually resistant to therapy and are thought to be responsible for at least some of the resistance patients develop to melanoma treatment. Continue reading…


Another Anti-PD1 Immunotherapy Shows Promise for Melanoma Patients


Following in the footsteps of positive results for the drug nivolumab, another anti-PD1 antibody, lambrolizumab (formerly MK-3475), is also showing promising activity in melanoma. At the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Antoni Ribas, MD, PhD, of the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, presented data from a large, 1,000-plus patient phase I trial that also included other cancer types. Continue reading…


Combination of Two Immunotherapy Agents May Work Better Than Either Alone


Results from a phase I trial combining two immunotherapy antibodies—the already-approved ipilimumab (Yervoy) and the still experimental nivolumab—suggest combining the agents may benefit advanced melanoma patients even more than either agent alone. Jedd Wolchok, MD, PhD, medical oncologist and immunotherapy and melanoma expert at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City presented the data at an American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) press meeting on May 15, 2013. The full results from the trial will be presented at the annual ASCO meeting this June. Continue reading…


A Conversation with Catherine Poole: Melanoma Survivor, Patient Advocate, and Founder of the Melanoma International Foundation


The Melanoma International Foundation (MIF) is a nonprofit organization that provides a support community and scientific guidance for patients with all stages of melanoma and their families and caregivers. The MIF was founded in 2003 by Catherine Poole, who was diagnosed with melanoma 23 years ago. I spoke with Poole about the MIF and her role as a melanoma patient advocate. Continue reading…


Combining an Immune Checkpoint Antibody with an Anti-Angiogenesis Inhibitor


A small phase I study combining the immune checkpoint antibody ipilimumab with the angiogenesis inhibitor antibody bevacizumab showed promising results in advanced melanoma patients in 2011. Now, researchers are continuing to study the combination of immunotherapy and anti-angiogenic agents to understand which patients could best benefit from such a combination. Continue reading…


Smart Patients: Groundbreaking Website Supports Conversations among Cancer Patients


Cancer Commons is thrilled to report the public launch of Smart Patients, a new online discussion platform for cancer patients and their caregivers that will enable them to learn from each other and improve their care. The free website lets users share insights about personal treatment experiences, discuss breaking science, and search for clinical trials.

“Many patients are incredibly self-motivated,” says Roni Zeiger, MD, Smart Patients cofounder and former chief health strategist at Google. “They are already finding the most cutting-edge science and we are providing them with a new way to discuss and disseminate this knowledge.” Continue reading…


Tracking Resistance to Cancer Therapies Without Tumor Access


Clinicians would like to be able to monitor whether a cancer patient’s tumor has acquired a resistance mutation as a result of targeted therapy. Knowing early if resistance has developed would allow patients to switch therapies and to curb tumor growth. But taking repeated tumor samples is problematic for many reasons. Biopsies are invasive and some tumors are inaccessible. Another issue is that tumors are mosaics of many different types of cells that are constantly evolving—since biopsies take time in the clinic and only sample a small part of a tumor, they may also not be representative of what is going on with the biology of the entire tumor mass. Continue reading…