Novel mechanisms and therapeutic approaches in melanoma: Targeting the MAPK Pathway

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The development of novel treatments that selectively inhibit the RAS-RAF-MAPK pathway represents a milestone in the history of melanoma treatment. BRAF mutations occur in approximately 45% of cutaneous melanomas, while mutations in NRAS occur in 15-25%. Vemurafenib was the first BRAF inhibitor to be approved in 2011, based on the results of a phase III trial (BRIM-3) that showed higher progression-free survival and overall survival compared with dacarbazine chemotherapy in metastatic BRAF-mutated melanoma. Dabrafenib, another BRAF inhibitor, has shown similar results and was approved in 2013. Preclinical studies suggested that another novel group of agents, the MEK inhibitors, showed stronger inhibition of both mutated BRAF and NRAS cell cultures than vemurafenib. Trametinib was the first MEK inhibitor approved in 2014, both as a single agent and in combination with dabrafenib for the treatment of advanced BRAF-mutated melanoma. Other MEK inhibitors are also in development. Concomitant inhibition of both MEK and BRAF has shown more durable and greater tumor response than BRAF monotherapy, by overcoming the multiple genetic mechanisms of escape. Combined therapy prevents the development of acquired resistance as well as decreasing cutaneous toxicity secondary to paradoxical activation of the MAPK pathway induced by BRAF inhibitors. Various combinations of BRAF and MEK inhibitors have shown promising results. Moreover, triple combination therapies involved other agents with novel mechanisms of action are also being evaluated. These and other combination strategies involving immunotherapies and targeted therapies offer the hope of improving outcomes beyond those already achieved with anti-BRAF treatments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)455-461
Number of pages7
JournalDiscovery medicine
Issue number107
Publication statusPublished - 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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