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Researchers identify three-drug combination that helps curb the growth of deadly type of skin cancer

A UCLA-led research team has pinpointed a three-drug combination that could prove to be an effective new therapy for people with a specific type of advanced melanoma.

The approach shows promise for extending the lives of people with a type of melanoma that contains a potent gene mutation, BRAF V600E. In clinical trials, it appeared not to cause the debilitating side effects that are caused by a combination of one targeted drug and an immunotherapy drug.

The researchers found that people with the melanoma survived longer without the cancer progressing or growing when they received a combination of two targeted inhibitors that block the BRAF mutation (dabrafenib and trametinib) and an immune checkpoint inhibitor drug (pembrolizumab) as the initial treatment for their disease.

“Utilizing the three drugs together sensitized the patient’s own immune system to bolster the power of immunotherapy and block the growth of two genes — BRAF and MEK — that cause cancer cells to reproduce and grow out of control,” said Dr. Antoni Ribas, the paper’s senior author, a professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and director of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Tumor Immunology Program.

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