A closely watched experimental drug has excited melanoma oncologists and patients with a 63% reduction in the relative risk of death from metastatic melanoma when compared with standard therapy in a phase III trial that had enrolled 675 newly diagnosed patients. Vemurafenib (better known as PLX4032) targets the BRAF V600E mutation found in 40%-60% of melanoma patients. It is only the second melanoma drug to extend the lives of melanoma patients in a randomized clinical study.
The first such agent, ipilimumab (Yervoy), was approved earlier this year, and the melanoma community expects the Food and Drug Administration will award an indication to vemurafenib based on the new data from the BRIM-3 trial. We talked with Dr. Paul Chapman — lead author of the BRIM-3 study — about vemurafenib. He also hypothesized how clinicians would decide which drug — vemurafenib (assuming approval) vs. ipilimumab to use for their patients.