A new study reveals dramatic results for an experimental drug designed to attack a melanoma tumor’s genetic trigger in patients with advanced disease, The Washington Post reports.
New York - A new study reveals dramatic results for an experimental drug designed to attack a melanoma tumor’s genetic trigger in patients with advanced disease, The Washington Post reports.
About half of melanoma patients’ tumors carry a mutation of the BRAF gene, which causes skin cells to reproduce out of control. The experimental drug, called PLX4032 or vemurafenib, reverses the effects of that mutation. The new study, led by Paul Chapman, M.D., of New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, involved 675 patients with advanced, inoperable melanoma with the BRAF gene mutation. The patients were treated either with dacarbazine, the standard chemotherapy drug, or with PLX4032.
Investigators report that after three months, PLX4032 was so obviously effective that the study was stopped so that dacarbazine patients could switch to the new drug. Study results show that PLX4032 shrank tumors significantly in nearly half the patients, reduced by two-thirds the risk that the disease would progress, and decreased the chance of fatality by 63 percent.
Side effects included skin rashes and joint pain, but researchers report that the effects tended to be far less severe than those caused by standard chemotherapy.
The Post quotes Dr. Chapman as saying, “This is really a huge step toward personalized care in melanoma. This is the first successful melanoma treatment tailored to patients who carry a specific gene mutation in their tumor.”