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The Paradox of BRAF Inhibitors in Melanoma Care

A BRAF inhibitor known as vemurafenib (Zelboraf) has been touted as a breakthrough melanoma treatment. But for some patients, the price of success is a mutation that leads to the development of secondary skin cancers called squamous cell carcinomas.

A recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine suggests that combining the BRAF inhibitor with a drug called an MEK inhibitor (which blocks the RAS mutation that leads to the secondary skin cancer) may prevent this side effect and lead to an even more effective melanoma treatment.

In an accompanying editorial, “RAF around the Edges — The Paradox of BRAF Inhibitors” Wistar researcher Ashani Weeraratna, Ph.D., expands on the success of this combination treatment.

She comments, “Although cutaneous squamous-cell carcinomas are not deadly, these lesions can be life-threatening when they occur in other organs. As we apply treatment with BRAF inhibitors to other tumor types, we would be well advised to analyze a patient's RAS status before therapy is begun.”

See the editorial here, and related articles in US News & World Report and USA Today.