Background: Studies carried out in vitro and in a mouse model have shown that BRAF inhibitors enhance the effects of IFN-α on BRAFV600E melanoma cells through the inhibition of ERK. Therefore, the combination of vemurafenib and IFN-α in patients with BRAFV600E melanoma may provide therapeutic benefits; MEK inhibition may prevent the reactivation of the MAPK pathway induced by BRAF inhibitor resistance. Patients and methods: In a phase I study, adult patients with advanced BRAFV600-mutated melanoma were treated with vemurafenib + PEG-IFN-α-2b or vemurafenib + cobimetinib + PEG-IFN-α-2b, to assess the safety of the combination and the upregulation of IFN-α/β receptor-1 (IFNAR1). Results: Eight patients were treated; 59 adverse events with four serious ones (three related to study treatments) were reported. Patients with a pre-treatment IFNAR1 expression on ≤ 35% melanoma cells had a median progression-free survival of 12.0 months (range: 5.6–18.4 months) and a median overall survival of 31.0 months (range: 19.8–42.2 months), while patients with a pre-treatment IFNAR1 expression on > 35% of melanoma cells had a median progression-free survival of 4.0 months (range: 0–8.8; p = 0.03), and a median overall survival of 5 months (p = 0.02). Following treatment, responders had higher levels of growth-suppressor genes, including GAS1 and DUSP1, and genes involved in a metabolically robust immune response, including FAP. Conclusion: Our study supports the overall safety of the vemurafenib + PEG-IFN-α-2b + cobimetinib combination. IFNAR1 expression levels correlated with response to treatment, including survival. Vemurafenib + PEG-IFN-α-2b + cobimetinib would have difficulty finding a niche in the current treatment scenario for advanced melanoma, but we speculate that our findings may contribute to identify subjects particularly responsive to treatment. Trial registration: The study was registered at clinicaltrials.gov (NCT01959633). Registered 10 October 2013, https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01959633.
- BRAF inhibitor
- Malignant melanoma
- MAP kinase
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)