A small subset of patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), especially those with lung adenocarcinoma, have a mutation in the BRAF gene called V600E. An ongoing phase II clinical trial is investigating whether the BRAF inhibitor dabrafenib (Tafinlar) benefits patients with this mutation. Tafinlar is currently approved for treatment of the skin cancer melanoma. Recently released trial results show that the drug partially shrank tumors in 40% of advanced NSCLC patients whose cancer had worsened after at least one round of chemotherapy. Another 20% of study participants maintained stable disease (tumors neither shrinking nor growing). Almost half of the patients currently remain on the treatment. These findings are the first evidence that treatments targeting the BRAF V600E mutation may be effective in lung cancer.
Good news for people with melanomas that have spread—the U.S. Food and Drug Administration just approved two new drugs that target tumors with common mutations. The drugs are dabrafenib (Tafinlar), a BRAF inhibitor, and trametinib (Mekinist), an MEK inhibitor. Developed by the pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline, both drugs target BRAF V600E mutations, which occur in about half of melanoma tumors. In addition, trametinib also targets V600K mutations, which are the next most common BRAF abnormalities. While these drugs have been tested in combination, using them together is not yet approved. The FDA also okayed a new test for the BRAF V600E mutation that is made by diagnostics firm bioMerieux.