Patients with metastatic melanoma have a bleak prognosis, with a median survival of six to nine months and a five-year survival rate of about 16%. About half of patients with metastatic melanoma have a mutation in a gene called BRAF in their tumors, and there are approved drugs to help prolong their life. However, the other half of patients have no mutation in the BRAF gene and are said to be BRAF wild type (BRAFwt); very little progress has been made in identifying new drugs to treat them.
The SU2C–MRA Melanoma Dream Team is analyzing the genomes of metastatic melanoma patients who are BRAFwt in order to match potentially effective drugs—approved or experimental—to the individual patient. Team members are also exploring the biological makeup of BRAFwt and BRAF-mutant cancer cells and testing these cells in the laboratory for sensitivity to 100 potential new treatments. Researchers are using these data to predict the sensitivity of BRAFwt melanomas to specific drugs and testing these predictions in laboratory studies.
A clinical trial is underway to determine whether this personalized approach significantly improves clinical outcome. The goal is a 30% improvement in tumor response relative to the standard of care.