Researchers from the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and other institutions reported more data today on studies of a new melanoma drug that target products of a cancer-causing mutation in the BRAF gene. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, tracked patients with metastatic melanoma who have been followed for more than a year now, on average. More than half of the patients had a response to the drug, and the investigators report median overall survival of almost 16 months.  The drug was approved by the FDA last fall.

These small steps in improving cancer therapies are encouraging to doctors. Johns Hopkins melanoma specialist Evan Lipson, M.D., said the following about today's report:

"The NEJM study is another important step in what is a rapidly changing landscape for melanoma and cancer therapy in general. Some cancers are formed when, inside a cell, a signal is passed from one molecule to another, like a game of telephone. Vemurafenib (Zelboraf) stops that signal from being sent and, in doing so, stops the growth of the cancer. This study provides important information on how likely and for how long the drug will keep the cancer at bay. It’s also a stepping stone to another exciting prospect in cancer research: combining drugs like vemurafenib with other therapies, where two treatments used together might be more effective than each one by itself."

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