UCLA cancer researchers have found that a new triple combination therapy shows promising signs of more effectively controlling advanced melanoma than previous treatments, and also shows fewer side effects. An estimated 70,000 new cases of metastatic melanoma are diagnosed each year in the United States, and of those, 8,000 people will die of the disease. About 50 percent of the total men and women diagnosed with this cancer have a mutated protein called a BRAF mutation, which, in most cases, allows melanoma to eventually build up a resistance to many drug therapies. In the new study, led by UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center member Dr. Antoni Ribas and colleague Dr. Siwen Hu-Lieskovan, UCLA scientists combined targeted therapies utilizing the BRAF inhibitor drug dabrafenib and the MEK inhibitor drug trametinib, together with immunotherapy, which is treatment that uses a person’s own immune system to help fight cancer. The results were published online on March 18, 2015 in Science Translational Medicine. Dabrafenib causes cancerous tumors to shrink in people whose metastatic melanoma has a BRAF gene mutation. Trametinib prevents the disturbance of the MAPK/ERK pathway that dabrafenib causes on cells without the BRAF mutation. That disturbance causes overactive cells to form a different type of skin cancer. The combination of the three therapies, which was shown to be a more effective treatment, works by sensitizing a person’s own immune system to enhance immunotherapy, and reducing the probability of the melanoma eventually developing resistance.
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