Investigational Agent Outperforms Chemotherapy

Melanoma with BRAF mutations respond to trametinib

(RxWiki News) About half of all advanced melanomas have a defect in the BRAF gene. A new strategy may extend the survival time of people living with this most serious form of skin cancer.

Researchers found in a phase 3 trial that the investigational agent trametinib helped people with advanced melanoma live longer than patients who received only chemotherapy.

"Ask your oncologist about the latest cancer drugs."

The Massachusetts General Hospital research team was led by Keith T. Flaherty, MD, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. For the study, 322 patients with two specific BRAF mutations received either 2 mg of oral trametinib daily or chemotherapy using either dacarbazine or paclitaxel every three weeks.

Researchers were looking to see how long it took before the melanoma started progressing (progression-free survival) and how long patients lived (overall survival). 

For people taking the trametinib, progression-free survival was 4.8 months, compared to 1.5 months in the chemotherapy group. Patients whose disease began to progress were able to switch to the trametinib.

After six months, 81 percent of the patients taking the trametinib medication were alive, compared to 67 percent of the chemotherapy group participants.

The most common side effects of trametinib were rash, diarrhea and swelling in the legs.

This study appears in the July 12 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine. The research was funded by GlaxoSmithKline, the manufacturer of trametinib.

Dr. Flaherty, is a paid consultant for GlaxoSmithKline, Bristol Myers Squib, Roche, Cephalon-Teva and Leo.

Review Date: 
July 16, 2012