Breakthrough melanoma drug doubles survival

The twice daily pill vemurafenib (Zelboraf) targets the BRAF mutation which is found in about half of metastatic melanoma patients.

In a phase II trial, patients taking the agent survived an average of 15.9 months whereas patients typically live for only nine months, the researchers said.

The study, funded by manufacturer Hoffmann-La Roche, was conducted among 132 patients at sites in Australia and the US.

“This study shows that Zelboraf changes the natural history of this disease,” said senior author  Dr Antoni  Ribas, from the University of California Los Angeles.
“We’re seeing a significant number of patients with durable responses to the drug and that the whole group of treated patients is living longer.”

The drug failed to elicit a response in 14% of patients and their disease progressed.

Among 53% of patients, tumours shrank by more than 30% and another 30% saw