The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved Cotellic (cobimetinib) to be used in combination with vemurafenib to treat advanced melanoma that has spread to other parts of the body or can't be removed by surgery, and that has a certain type of abnormal gene (BRAF V600E or V600K mutation).
Melanoma is the most aggressive and dangerous form of skin cancer in the United States. It forms in the skin cells that develop the skin's pigment and if not diagnosed early, the cancer is likely to spread to other parts of the body. The National Cancer Institute estimates that 73,870 Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma and 9,940 will die from the disease this year.
"As we continue to advance our knowledge of tumor biology, we have learned that cancer cells have a remarkable ability to adapt and become resistant to targeted therapies. Combining two or more treatments addressing different cancer-causing targets may help to address this challenge," said Richard Pazdur, M.D., director of the Office of Hematology and Oncology Products in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "Today's approval provides a new targeted treatment that, when added to vemurafenib, demonstrates greater benefit than vemurafenib alone in patients with BRAF mutation-positive melanoma."
Cotellic works by blocking the activity of an enzyme known as MEK, which is part of a larger signaling pathway. Abnormal activity of signaling pathways can lead to cancer. Cotellic prevents or slows cancer cell growth. Vemurafenib, marketed in the U.S. as Zelboraf, is a BRAF inhibitor that affects a different part of the same pathway and was approved in 2011 to treat patients with melanoma that has spread to other parts of the body or cannot be removed by surgery, whose tumors express a gene mutation called BRAF V600E, as detected by an FDA approved test. Health care providers should confirm the presence of BRAF V600 E or V600K mutation in their patients' tumor specimens using one of the available FDA approved tests prior to starting treatment with Cotellic in combination with vemurafenib.