UPDATE 1-Roche Skin Cancer Drug Meets Main Goal in Combination Study

“An experimental drug from Roche helped people with an advanced form of skin cancer live longer without their disease worsening when used in combination with another treatment, the Swiss drugmaker said on Monday.

“Pharmaceutical companies are looking to combination therapy to yield better results and drug cocktails are expected to be crucial as oncologists seek to block cancer on multiple fronts.

“Cobimetinib, which is being developed in collaboration with Exelixis Inc, is designed to be used with another Roche drug called Zelboraf for patients with tumors that have a mutation in a gene known as BRAF that allows melanoma cells to grow.”

Editor’s note: Cobimetinib is meant to be used in combination with the targeted therapy Zelboraf (vemurafenib) to treat people with melanoma whose tumors have a mutation in the BRAF gene. Oncologists can use a method called molecular testing to figure out whether a patient has a BRAF mutation.


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…


Ipilimumab Yielded no Major Benefit in Prostate Cancer Bone Metastases

“Ipilimumab failed to significantly extend OS compared with placebo for treatment of bone metastases in patients with castration-resistant prostate cancer, according to results of a randomized, double blind, phase 3 trial.

“However, researchers indicated they observed signs of activity with ipilimumab that warrant further investigation.”

Editor’s note: Yesterday we published a hopeful story about the possibility that immunotherapy drugs like ipilimumab may soon be approved for treating some men with prostate cancer. But this particular study found disappointing results for the treatment; it did not significantly improve survival time when used to treat bone metastases in patients with castration-resistant prostate cancer. Nonetheless, ipilimumab may still be found to help some prostate cancer patients.


Scientists Find New Way to Combat Drug Resistance in Skin Cancer

“Rapid resistance to vemurafenib – a treatment for a type of advanced melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer – could be prevented by blocking a druggable family of proteins, according to research published in Nature Communications today.

“Scientists at the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, based at the University of Manchester, have revealed the MLK family of four enzymes ‘undoes’ the tumour-shrinking effects of vemurafenib.”

Editor’s note: This story describes a potential new way to treat melanoma that has become resistant to vemurafenib. While promising, the research is still in preliminary stages, so new treatments are not yet available for patients.


Thwarting Drug Resistance in Lung Cancer


If you’ve read up on lung cancer research in the last few years, you probably know that large strides have been made in targeted therapies for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Targeted therapies are drugs that identify and attack specific mutated proteins that are detected in tumors. Because noncancerous cells do not have these specific mutations, targeted therapies can make a beeline for cancer, while leaving healthy tissue unharmed. Continue reading…


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.”


‘Real World’ Safety Study of Vemurafenib in BRAF V600–Mutated Metastatic Melanoma Shows Similar Safety Profile as Pivotal Trials

“As reported in The Lancet Oncology by Larkin et al, interim results of a safety study designed to reflect the spectrum of patients encountered in routine practice suggest that vemurafenib (Zelboraf) has a safety profile in patients with BRAF V600–mutated metastatic melanoma similar to that observed in the more select patient population included in registration trials. The study included patients with limited treatment options and sizable proportions with brain metastases, elevated lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), poor performance status, and age ≥ 75 years.”

Editor’s Note: The important takeaway from this story is that the drug vemurafenib can be used safely and effectively in some melanoma patients with poor prognoses, who may not fit the profile of patients typically enrolled in clinical trials to test the drug. To learn more about clinical trials and “targeted therapies” like vemurafenib, visit our Melanoma Basics.


Extended Follow-up in BRIM-3 Shows Prolonged Survival With Vemurafenib in BRAF V600E/K Mutation–Positive Melanoma

In the BRIM-3 trial, vemurafenib (Zelboraf) was associated with improved progression-free and overall survival vs dacarbazine in patients with advanced BRAF V600 mutation–positive melanoma. In an extended follow-up reported in The Lancet Oncology, McArthur et al found that superior survival outcomes were maintained and were present in both theBRAF V600E and BRAF V600K mutation subgroups.”

Editor’s note: Read more about vemurafenib here: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a612009.html


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.