Paradoxical oncogenesis—the long-term effects of BRAF inhibition in melanoma

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Abstract

The clinical benefits of BRAF inhibition in patients with advanced-stage BRAF-mutant melanoma are now well established. Although the emergence of cutaneous squamous-cell carcinomas (SCCs) and secondary melanomas in patients on BRAF-inhibitor therapy have been well described, reports are emerging of additional secondary premalignant and malignant events, including RAS-mutant leukaemia, the metastatic recurrence of RAS-mutant colorectal cancer and the development of gastric and colonic polyps. In most cases, paradoxical MAPK activation–resulting from the BRAF-inhibitor-mediated homodimerization and heterodimerization of nonmutant RAF isoforms–seems to underlie the development of these secondary tumours. Although evidence supports that therapy with the simultaneous administration of BRAF and MEK inhibitors abrogates the onset of treatment-induced SCCs, whether combination treatment will limit the emergence of all BRAF-inhibitor-driven pathologies is unclear. In this Review, we describe the clinical and mechanistic manifestations of secondary cancers that have thus far been observed to arise as a consequence of BRAF inhibition. We discuss the concept of pre-existing populations of partly transformed cells with malignant potential that might be present in various organ systems, and the rationale for novel therapeutic strategies for the management of BRAF-inhibitor-induced neoplasia.

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