Malignant melanoma is a life-threatening skin cancer
that could arise following excessive sun exposure or exposure to ultraviolet
radiation. Patients have a poor prognosis if the cancer has spread to other
organs; one in every four such cases may survive over a year.
Nearly 50% of malignant melanoma patients have a
mutation called BRAF mutation. The BRAF protein plays a role in cell growth and
survival. Mutation in the BRAF protein leads to excessive cell growth and
cancer. Most of BRAF mutations are due to substitution of glutamic acid for
valine at codon 600 (BRAF V600E). A test called the cobas 4800 BRAF V600
Mutation Test is used to diagnose the mutation.
an inhibitor of some mutated forms of BRAF protein
. Thus, it is effective in
malignant melanomas in people who show the presence of BRAF mutations.
In a small study, patients with advanced malignant
melanoma who received prior treatment were followed up for a variable duration
to a maximum of 20 months to study the overall response rate to the drug, the
duration of response and overall survival. A total of 132 patients were
included in the study.
found that nearly half the patients responded to treatment, most of them
partially but 6% showed a complete response.
The mean survival duration was an average of
The most common side effects observed were joint
pain, rash, increased sensitivity to sun, fatigue and loss of hair. A type of
skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma was diagnosed in 26% patients.
Thus, vemurafenib could provide hope to patients of
advanced malignant melanoma with poor chances of survival.
1. Survival in BRAF V600-Mutant Advanced Melanoma Treated with
Vemurafenib; Jeffery Sosman et al; N Engl J Med 2012; 366:707-714