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New Drug Shrinks Brain Tumors in Melanoma Patients

Researchers say months may be added to patients’ lives (Oct. 8)

The University of Sydney in Australia reported on October 8 that a new drug targeting a common gene mutation in melanoma successfully shrank tumors that had spread to the brain.

The study results were published in The Lancet Oncology.

The new drug — dabrafenib — targets the V600E BRAF mutation, which is active in 50% of melanoma cases. The drug is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline, which sponsored the study.

The recent phase II trial divided patients into two groups. One group had never received treatment for brain metastases, and the other group had received prior treatment for brain metastases but had since progressed.

The primary outcome of the study was the proportion of patients with the V600E BRAF mutation who responded to dabrafenib. The researchers found that dabrafenib had activity in at least 30% of patients, with or without prior treatment.

Further, in patients with the V600E BRAF mutation, intracranial disease control — one of the study’s secondary outcomes — was achieved in 81% of patients who did not have prior treatment for brain metastases and in 89% of patients who had received prior treatment and had progressed.

The researchers concluded that dabrafenib may add months to the lives of patients whose melanoma has spread to the brain. Most patients with brain metastases do not survive past 4 months after diagnosis.

The study was a phase II multicenter, open-label trial involving 172 patients in six countries.

For more information, visit the University of Sydney Web site.

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