What’s New in Melanoma Treatment in 2019?


It has been over a year since I last wrote about new developments in treatment of melanoma, and it is time for an update. There is certainly some good news for melanoma patients!

Neoadjuvant (before surgery) treatments for resectable melanoma

Stage III—and more rarely, stage IV—melanoma tumors that have not spread widely can be sometimes treated surgically. Last year a small clinical trial showed that, in BRAF-mutant melanoma, treatment with the BRAF/MEK inhibitors dabrafenib and trametinib (D/T) before and after surgery provides a significant improvement over just post-surgery treatment, by preventing later recurrence.

Later in 2018, researchers reported that using the immune checkpoint drugs nivolumab and ipilimumab prior to surgery led to tumor reduction in 73% of patients treated in a clinical trial. After surgery, they remained disease-free for 2 years (the reported time of observation). Treatment with nivolumab alone was not nearly as active in this randomized trial, with only 25% of patients responding to neoadjuvant nivolumab; still, 75% were disease-free within the 2-year observation period.

An interesting trial tested a single dose of the drug pembrolizumab given three weeks prior to surgery. Of 27 patients who received this single infusion, eight (29%) had a complete or major pathological response, meaning that their tumors were reduced by 90% or more. These eight patients continued on pembrolizumab after surgery and were disease-free for over 2 years. Continue reading…


Adjuvant Dabrafenib/Trametinib Granted FDA Approval for BRAF+ Melanoma

Excerpt:

“Based on data from the phase III COMBI-AD study, the combination of dabrafenib (Tafinlar) and trametinib (Mekinist) has been granted FDA approval for the adjuvant treatment of patients with BRAF V600E– or V600K–positive stage III melanoma following complete resection.

“In results from the trial, adjuvant treatment with dabrafenib and trametinib reduced the risk of relapse or death by 53% compared with placebo for patients with BRAF-mutant stage III melanoma.1,2 After a median follow-up of 2.8 years, the 3-year relapse-free survival (RFS) rate with dabrafenib and trametinib was 58% compared with 39% for placebo (HR, 0.47; 95% CI, 0.39-0.58; P <.001).”

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FDA Approves Tafinlar Plus Mekinist for BRAF V600E–Mutant Non–Small Cell Lung Cancer

Excerpt:

“The FDA approved use of dabrafenib in combination with trametinib for treatment of patients with metastatic non–small cell lung cancer whose tumors harbor BRAF V600E mutations, according to the agents’ manufacturer.

“The combination of dabrafenib (Tafinlar, Novartis) — a BRAF inhibitor — and trametinib (Mekinist, Novartis), a MEK1/2 inhibitor — is the first targeted treatment approved in the United States specifically for patients with BRAF V600E–positive metastatic NSCLC.”

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If you’re wondering whether this story applies to your own cancer case or a loved one’s, we invite you to use our ASK Cancer Commons service.


Melanoma Mutation Likes Fat for Fuel

Excerpt:

“Cancer cells love glucose, the simple sugar the body uses for energy, so a high-fat, low-carb diet should starve them, right?

“Not so fast. Research in mice suggests that melanomas and other cancers driven by a particular mutation (BRAF V600E) will grow faster in response to a high-fat diet. In addition, lipid-lowering agents such as statins curb these cancers’ growth, even in the context of a more normal diet.”

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If you’re wondering whether this story applies to your own cancer case or a loved one’s, we invite you to use our ASK Cancer Commons service.


Dabrafenib/Trametinib Combo Highly Effective in BRAF-Mutant NSCLC

Excerpt:

“The combination of dabrafenib (Tafinlar) and trametinib (Mekinist) was highly effective as a treatment for patients with BRAF V600E-mutant non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), according to lead investigator David Planchard MD, PhD, who presented the phase II data at the 2016 ASCO Annual Meeting.1 Findings from the study were also concurrently published in Lancet Oncology.2

“The investigator assessed objective response rate (ORR) with the combination was 63% (95% CI, 49-75), which lasted for a median duration of 9.0 months (95% CI, 6.9-18.3). When adding those with stable disease for ≥12 weeks, the overall disease control rate was 79% (95% CI, 66-89). The median progression-free survival (PFS) was 9.7 months (95% CI, 6.9-19.6).

“In addition to the combination cohort, the study also included a single-agent arm that included 78 previously treated patients with metastatic BRAF V600E–mutant NSCLC. In this cohort, the ORR with single-agent dabrafenib was 33% and the median PFS was 5.5 month. Findings from both cohorts of the study have led to breakthrough therapy designations from the FDA for dabrafenib as a single agent and in combination with trametinib.”

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Dabrafenib Active in BRAF-Mutant Metastatic NSCLC

Excerpt:

“Planchard et al found that the BRAF kinase inhibitor dabrafenib (Tafinlar) produced responses in previously treated and untreated patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), according to a phase II trial reported in The Lancet Oncology. Activating BRAF V600E mutations are found in approximately 1% to 2% of lung adenocarcinomas.”

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New RAF-targeted Therapeutic Shows Early Promise Against Tumors With BRAF and RAS Mutations

Excerpt:

“The new investigational anticancer therapeutic BGB-283, which targets the RAF family of proteins, was safe, tolerable, and showed signs of clinical activity in patients who had a range of types of cancer with mutations in BRAF, KRAS, and NRAS, according to results from a phase I clinical trial presented here at the AACR Annual Meeting 2016, April 16-20.

“ ‘BRAF gene mutations fuel cancer cell proliferation and survival in a number of types of cancer, including melanoma, and thyroid and colorectal cancers,’ said Jayesh Desai, FRACP, a medical oncologist at The Royal Melbourne Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. ‘In melanoma, the BRAF V600E mutation predominates, and specific inhibitors of the BRAF V600E mutant protein have been approved for treating patients with melanoma with BRAF V600E gene mutations.’ ”

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Vemurafenib/Cobimetinib Combo for Melanoma Approved by FDA

“The FDA has approved a combination of vemurafenib (Zelboraf) and cobimetinib (Cotellic) to treat patients with metastatic or unresectable BRAF V600E/K mutation-positive melanoma. The approval was based on based on an extension in progression-free survival (PFS) in the phase III coBRIM study.

“In the data submitted to the FDA, the median PFS with the combination was 12.3 versus 7.2 months with vemurafenib plus placebo (HR, 0.58; 95% CI, 0.46-0.72). PFS was the primary endpoint of the study with secondary outcome measures including overall survival (OS), objective response rate (ORR), duration of response, and safety.”


Novartis Presents New Data at ASCO for Zykadia® and Combination of Tafinlar® and Mekinist® in Certain NSCLC Patients with Unmet Needs

“Novartis today announced new data from two Phase II studies of Zykadia® (ceritinib), as well as one Phase II study of Tafinlar® (dabrafenib) in combination with Mekinist® (trametinib) in certain patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Data from these studies were presented at the 51st Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago.

“The results of the Zykadia studies – ASCEND-2 and ASCEND-3 – reinforce the efficacy of the medicine in patients with anaplastic lymphoma kinase-positive (ALK+) NSCLC who had received previous treatment with an ALK inhibitor and in those receiving an ALK-targeted therapy for the first time. Overall response rates (ORR) seen in these trials were 38.6% and 63.7%, respectively, based upon investigator assessment. Comparable ORR results were observed in patients with ALK+ NSCLC who entered the studies with brain metastases (33% and 58%, respectively)[1],[2].

“Separately, the study of dabrafenib in combination with trametinib in patients with metastatic BRAF V600E-mutation positive NSCLC who had failed at least one round of chemotherapy demonstrated an ORR of 63% in this population[3].”