GSK's Melanoma Study Stopped Early on Survival Boost

The gist: In the U.S. and Australia, oncologists are allowed to prescribe a treatment that combines the drugs Mekinist (trametinib) and Tafinlar (dabrafenib) for people with unresectable or metastatic melanoma whose tumors have a V600E or V600K mutation in the BRAF gene. European regulators would like to see more data on the benefits and risks of the treatment before approving it for European patients. The company that produces the treatment was conducting a clinical trial with volunteer patients to capture that data, but has now decided to halt the trial, which was comparing the combo treatment to the drug Zelboraf (vemurafenib). The trial found that the combo treatment has such a significant improvement on patient survival that the patients who had been taking vemurafenib for comparison should be allowed to switch to the combo treatment, and the trial ended early.

“GlaxoSmithKline has stopped a Phase III study of its combination therapy for advanced cutaneous melanoma ahead of schedule after it showed a significant survival benefit.

“The UK drug giant said an Independent Data Monitoring Committee (IDMC) has made the recommendation as it emerged patients with metastatic melanoma – carrying a BRAFV600 mutation – who took a combo of Mekinist (trametinib) and Tafinlar (dabrafenib) demonstrated an overall survival benefit compared to those taking vemarufenib.

“Safety signals were also good, remaining consistent with that for the MEK inhibitor and BRAF inhibitor observed to date, the firm said.”


European Commission Approves Mekinist for Metastatic Melanoma

“The European Commission has given marketing authorization for trametinib as monotherapy for unresectable or metastatic melanoma in adults with a BRAF V600 mutation, GlaxoSmithKline announced.

“Trametinib (Mekinist), a kinase inhibitor that targets MEK1/MEK2 activation and kinase activity, has not demonstrated clinical activity in patients who have progressed on a prior BRAF inhibitor therapy. Before taking trametinib, patients must have confirmation of a BRAF V600 mutation using a validated test.”

Editor’s note: The European Commission (the executive body of the European Union) has approved the drug trametinib (brand name Mekinist) as a treatment for unresectable or metastatic melanoma in adults whose tumors have a mutation called V600 in the BRAF gene. The approval is based on promising results for the drug in a clinical trial.


ASCO 2014: Highlights for People Dealing with Melanoma


Every year, new cancer treatment insights are shared at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting. Here are some of the most notable recent developments in melanoma treatment, gleaned from researchers’ presentations at ASCO last month: Continue reading…


Combination Dabrafenib/Trametinib Increased PFS in BRAF-Positive Melanoma

“Data from a phase 3 trial demonstrate combination dabrafenib and trametinib was superior to dabrafenib plus placebo for improved PFS in patients with BRAFV600-positive metastatic melanoma, according to data presented here at the ASCO Annual Meeting.

“ ‘This is the first melanoma trial, phase 3, to have an active control arm,’ researcher Georgina V. Long, BSc, PhD, MBBS, FRCP, oncologist at Melanoma Institute Australia at the University of Sydney, said of the COMBI-D trial.”

Editor’s note: This story describes the results of a clinical trial, in which volunteer patients are help test a new treatment. The treatment consists of a combination of the targeted therapy drugs dabrafenib and trametinib. Patients treated with the combination lived longer without progression of their cancer than patients who received dabrafenib plus a non-active placebo. Importantly, these results are specific to patients whose tumors have “BRAF V600E” mutations, which doctors can detect via molecular testing.


UPDATE 1-EU Agency Backs Approval of New GlaxoSmithKline Melanoma Drug

“GlaxoSmithKline’s melanoma drug Mekinist – one of several drugs being sold to Novartis under an asset swap deal – has been recommended for approval by European regulators.

“The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on Friday its experts had backed the drug, also known as trametinib, as a treatment for unresectable or metastatic melanoma in patients with a mutation of a gene known as BRAF.”


Conference Abstract – MAP Kinase Pathway Alterations in BRAF-Mutant Melanoma Patients With Acquired Resistance to Combined RAF/MEK Inhibition

“Treatment of BRAF-mutant melanoma with combined dabrafenib and trametinib, which target RAF and the downstream MAP–ERK kinase (MEK)1 and MEK2 kinases, respectively, improves progression-free survival and response rates compared with dabrafenib monotherapy. Mechanisms of clinical resistance to combined RAF/MEK inhibition are unknown. This study represents an initial clinical genomic study of acquired resistance to combined RAF/MEK inhibition in BRAF-mutant melanoma, using WES and RNA-seq. The presence of diverse resistance mechanisms suggests that serial biopsies and genomic/molecular profiling at the time of resistance may ultimately improve the care of patients with resistant BRAF-mutant melanoma by specifying tailored targeted combinations to overcome specific resistance mechanisms.”

Editor’s note: We previously covered the benefits of a dabrafenib/trametinib combo for advanced-stage melanoma. However, some patients’ tumors become resistant to this drug combination and new treatment routes need to be considered. This study is exploring how molecular testing of specific genetic mutations in patients’ tumors might be used to help guide treatment decisions after they become resistant to the dabrafenib/trametinib combo.


New Treatments for Advanced Melanoma Presented at AAD

“In recent years, the FDA has approved new drugs for the treatment of advanced melanoma, which has presented new ways to treat the disease, according to a presentation at the American Academy of Dermatology annual meeting.

“ ‘In the last four years there have been four new drugs that have been FDA-approved for melanoma and what’s even more exciting is that they really speak to two new ways to treating melanoma,’ Allan C. Halpern, MD, MSc, chief of dermatology service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, told Healio.com.

“The most recent FDA approval, in January, was the combination of a BRAF inhibitor and a MEK inhibitor for treating advanced melanoma.”


Immunotherapy, BRAF Inhibitor Sequence Affected Outcomes in Metastatic Melanoma

“Prior treatment with immunotherapy did not limit response to BRAF inhibitors among patients with metastatic melanoma, according to results of a retrospective study.

“However, patients who underwent initial treatment with BRAF inhibitors and subsequently received immunotherapy with ipilimumab (Yervoy, Bristol-Myers Squibb) demonstrated poorer outcomes, results showed.

“Patients with BRAF-positive metastatic melanoma have several treatment options, including BRAF inhibitors vemurafenib (Zelboraf, Hoffmann-La Roche) and dabrafenib  (Taflinar, GlaxoSmithKline), the MEK inhibitor trametinib (Mekinist, GlaxoSmithKline), and the immunotherapy agents ipilimumab and interleukin-2. Yet, there are limited data with regard to optimal sequencing, according to researchers.”


Trial Supports Recent US FDA Approval of New Melanoma Combo Treatment

The US Food and Drug Administration just granted accelerated approval for a treatment that combines two drugs that target melanomas with BRAF mutations — but this was contingent on the results of an ongoing phase III clinical trial. The drugs are the BRAF inhibitor dabrafenib (Tafinlar) and the MEK inhibitor trametinib (Mekinist). Now the latest results of the trial are in and they look good. This combination treatment is not approved elsewhere in the world, and the trial included 423 people from Australia, Europe, and North and South America. Final results are expected later this year and will be presented at a scientific meeting. In addition, another trial is comparing this combination treatment to the BRAF inhibitor vemurafenib (Zelboraf), which is also FDA-approved.