Melanoma: A 2013 ‘Progress Report’

The past year saw some remarkable advances in melanoma clinical research and treatment. This feature explores the most notable melanoma news of 2013: Continue reading…

New Test May Reveal When Melanomas Resist Targeted Therapies

Melanomas with BRAF mutations often become drug-resistant, but now researchers think they know how to tell who will benefit from continued treatments. The researchers studied BRAF-mutant melanomas in nine people before and after targeted treatment, and found that tumors were less likely to grow when a protein called S6 was not activated. Next, the researchers developed a way to monitor S6 — and so tumor response —in treated melanomas in real-time. Their method entails fine-needle aspiration, which is far less invasive than conventional biopsies and could potentially replace the serial biopsies currently done to test for tumor resistance.

New Test May Show When BRAF Inhibitors Work

Even though about half of melanomas have BRAF mutations, some of these still fail to respond to BRAF inhibitors. Now, there may be a way to tell whether BRAF inhibitors are working, according to findings presented at the 2013 International Conference on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics. The researchers found that a BRAF inhibitor kept tumors from growing in six out of nine people with BRAF-mutant melanomas, and that those who benefitted from the treatment also had less activation of a protein called S6 at two weeks. If this link is verified in large clinical trials, S6 activation levels could predict BRAF inhibitor effectiveness during the early stages of treatment.

New Biomarker May Help Guide Treatment of Melanoma Patients

“A functional biomarker that can predict whether BRAF-mutant melanomas respond to drugs targeting BRAF could help guide the treatment of patients with these cancers, according to results presented here at the AACR-NCI-EORTC International Conference on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics, held Oct. 19 – 23.”

The Cancer Biomarker Problem

In 2008, Dr. Charles Sawyers, currently the president of American Association for Cancer Research, wrote an article for the journal Nature entitled: ‘The Cancer Biomarker Problem.’ This excellent paper clearly explains what cancer biomarkers are, outlines the different categories of biomarkers, and emphasizes how important biomarkers are in the field of targeted therapies. Predictive biomarkers are indispensable tools that should direct the rational use of targeted drugs in cancer patients. There are additional types of biomarkers, including some that could help evaluate the course of cancer progression or help determine the effective dose of an investigational drug. But this post focuses on predictive biomarkers. Continue reading…