The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Zelboraf (vemurafenib), a drug to treat patients with late-stage (metastatic) or unresectable (cannot be removed by surgery) melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer.
Zelboraf is specifically indicated for the treatment of patients with melanoma whose tumors express a gene mutation called BRAF V600E. The drug has not been studied in patients whose melanoma tests negative for that mutation by an FDA approved diagnostic.
Melanoma is the leading cause of death from skin disease. The National Cancer Institute estimated that 68,130 new cases of melanoma were diagnosed in the
during 2010; about 8,700 people died from the disease. United States
The BRAF protein is normally involved in regulating cell growth, but is mutated in about half of the patients with late-stage melanomas. Zelboraf is a BRAF inhibitor that is able to block the function of the V600E-mutated BRAF protein.
After Yervoy (ipilimumab), approved in March, Zelboraf is the second new cancer drug approved that demonstrates an improvement in overall survival.