Oncologist, Dr. Oliver Gautschi from Lucern Cantonal Hospital, Switzerland recently presented at the 2015 European Lung Cancer Conference (ELCC) held in Geneva, Switzerland the results from a retrospective study involving lung cancer patients with specific mutations in the BRAF gene.
The BRAF gene is a proto-oncogene, meaning that it can contribute to cancer development. Mutations in this gene have been associated with some human cancers such as melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, and in a relatively small number of cases of lung adenocarcinoma (2%). While several BRAF protein inhibitors have been developed against melanoma, like dabrafenib and vemurafenib, there is no approved drug against BRAF-mutant lung cancer and the impact of these inhibitors in this type of cancer remains poorly studied.
“In the current study, we wanted to find out how many patients in Europe received B-Raf inhibitors outside of a clinical trial, and what their outcomes were,” said Dr. Gautschi in a press release.
The research team conducted a retrospective multicenter European study (EURAF) with advanced BRAF-mutant lung cancer patients treated outside of a clinical trial. In total, 35 patients received BRAF protein inhibitors (vemurafenib, dabrafenib or sorafenib) between 2012 and 2014.
Researchers found that the overall response rate of BRAF-mutant lung cancer patients to treatment was 53% and that the progression-free survival time was 5 months. “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,” said Dr. Gautschi.
The authors concluded that BRAF inhibitors, commonly used in melanoma treatment, can also have clinical benefits in particular BRAF-mutant lung cancer patients.
“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,” said Dr. David Planchard from the Gustave Roussy in France. “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.”
According to Dr. Planchard, the findings support the approval of BRAF inhibitors as a lung cancer therapy. This is especially important because it might be extremely difficult to conduct the required Phase 3 clinical trials for the approval process since BRAF mutations are relatively rare in lung cancer patients.