Melanoma Drug Benefits Some Lung Cancer Patients

BRAF mutations commonly found in melanoma also seen in subset of lung cancer patients.

BRAF mutations commonly found in melanoma also seen in subset of lung cancer patients.

A small portion of lung cancer patients may benefit from a drug commonly taken for the treatment of melanoma, the results of a recent clinical trial indicates.

The trial, presented at the recent European Lung Cancer Conference, included lung cancer patients with tumors that carry specific mutations in the BRAF gene, which is commonly found in melanoma patients and in approximately 2% of lung adenocarcinomas. Several B-Raf protein inhibitors, including vemurafenib and dabrafenib, currently treat melanoma patients, but there have not been any drugs approved for BRAF-mutant lung cancer.

The study included 35 lung cancer patients who carried BRAF mutations and were treated with B-Raf inhibitors between 2012 and 2014.

Most of the patients were treated with vemurafenib, some were treated with dabrafenib, and one received sorafenib. The overall response rate was 53% based on the Response Evaluation Criteria In Solid Tumors guidelines. The overall progression-free survival rate in these patients was 5 months.

Most of the patients were pretreated and were not eligible for enrollment in a clinical trial, however the small size and retrospective nature of the study indicate the magnitude of benefit should be treated cautiously.

"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," researcher Oliver Gautschi, MD, said in a press release.

The trial also confirmed the drugs were well tolerated without new side effects.

"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," David Planchard, MD, who presented a separate phase 2 study in this area with dabrafenib, said in a press release. "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."