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Melanoma drugs show efficacy in BRAF-mutant lung cancer

Written by | 5 May 2015 | All Medical News

by Bruce Sylvester: Lung cancer patients whose tumors carry specific mutations in the BRAF gene appear to benefit from drugs used to treat melanoma, researchers from the retrospective EURAF cohort study reported on April 17, 2015 at the European Lung Cancer Conference (ELCC) in Geneva, Switzerland.

The authors explained that BRAF mutations are common in melanoma patients and appear in about 2% of lung adenocarcinomas.  B-Raf protein inhibitors, including vemurafenib and dabrafenib, are used in treating melanoma. There is no approved drug for BRAF-mutant lung cancer.

The EURAF study included lung cancer subjects with tumors carrying specific mutations in the BRAF gene. “In the current study, we wanted to find out how many [lung cancer] patients in Europe received B-Raf inhibitors outside of a clinical trial, and what their outcomes were,” said investigator and presenter Oliver Gautschi, MD, a medical oncologist from Lucern Cantonal Hospital in Switzerland.

The researchers found evaluable data on 35 lung cancer patients identified as BRAF mutation carriers, who were treated with B-Raf inhibitors between 2012 and 2014.

Most of those patients were treated with vemurafenib, some with dabrafenib, and one with sorafenib.

Gautschi reported an overall response rate of 53% and an overall progression-free survival time of 5 months. He emphasized that while the results are encouraging, the study was small and it was retrospective in design.

“The bottom line is that clinicians should be sure to test patients for so-called ‘rare’ driver mutations in lung cancer, because individual patients may derive substantial benefit from targeted therapy,”   Gautschi added.

David Planchard, MD, pulmonary oncologist at Gustave Roussy in Villejuif, France, said, “This trial is important because due to the low frequency of this mutation in non-small cell lung cancer we will have few trials on this population. The more data we have, the better we understand how important it is to test for the mutation, especially in adenocarcinomas, and to expose mutation-positive patients to a specific B-Raf inhibitor.”

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