At Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, patients with stage III and IV unresectable melanoma are now routinely genetically profiled for several gene mutations, including ones in the BRAF gene, a known driver oncogene for melanoma. Research has shown that mutations in the BRAF gene determine sensitivity or resistance to a class of drugs that are BRAF inhibitors. "We have found that a large number of patients with melanoma who have the BRAF gene mutation quickly develop resistance to drugs that are BRAF inhibitors," said Jeffrey S. Weber, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Donald A. Adam Comprehensive Melanoma Research Center at Moffitt. "A recent approach in the melanoma research community is to find ways to overcome resistance to drugs we targeted to mutated BRAF." At Moffitt, researchers have access to a large database of patient-donated tissues through Moffitt's Total Cancer Care™ program, a far-reaching design for care that includes building a biorepository of tumor samples for study and patient selection for clinical trials participation. By looking for patient genetic profiles for BRAF, Moffitt researchers are working at the frontiers of personalized medicine, which is the effort to match the right patient to the right drug. According to Dr. Weber, although 50 percent of melanoma patients might have the BRAF mutation, the lack of other valid molecular targets for melanoma has "hampered efforts to individualize therapy." That may have changed now that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the drug Vemurafenib for melanoma patients who test positive for the BRAF mutation. An international team of researchers, including those at Moffitt led by Dr.
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