Dr Chapman said: "What makes this treatment different from standard chemotherapy is that standard chemotherapy attacks the machinery involved in cell division; so to stop the cancer cells dividing uncontrollably, most standard chemotherapy aims to block the mechanism of division by interfering directly with DNA replication or with microtubules in the dividing cells. PLX4302 is different because it attacks the genetic programme that is causing the cells to divide uncontrollably, and we think the BRAF mutation is driving that programme. The drug is blocking the genetics of the tumour, rather than trying to interfere with the proliferation of the cells and, as a result, there are fewer side effects, although there are some. We are seeing some pretty dramatic and rapid responses, and they are occurring in sites where we rarely see responses to chemotherapy, such as in the bone.
"There are some important caveats. All these patients had failed previous therapies, either chemotherapy or treatment with Interleukin 2, as well as surgery. However, we know that only 10-30% of patients will respond to standard chemotherapy, so it's not surprising that our patients had not responded, or have responded and then the cancer has recurred. In our study 64% of patients have had a partial response, but because we are only treating patients with the BRAF mutation, we are cutting out about 40% of melanoma patients who do not have this mutation and whom we know will not respond to this treatment. That is one reason why we are seeing a much higher response than with conventional treatments.
|Contact: Emma Mason|
ECCO-the European CanCer Organisation