Targeted agents and immunotherapies: optimizing outcomes in melanoma

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Abstract

| Treatment options for patients with metastatic melanoma, and especially BRAF-mutant melanoma, have changed dramatically in the past 5 years, with the FDA approval of eight new therapeutic agents. During this period, the treatment paradigm for BRAF-mutant disease has evolved rapidly: the standard-of-care BRAF-targeted approach has shifted from single-agent BRAF inhibition to combination therapy with a BRAF and a MEK inhibitor. Concurrently, immunotherapy has transitioned from cytokine-based treatment to antibody-mediated blockade of the cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated antigen-4 (CTLA-4) and, now, the programmed cell-death protein 1 (PD-1) immune checkpoints. These changes in the treatment landscape have dramatically improved patient outcomes, with the median overall survival of patients with advanced-stage melanoma increasing from approximately 9 months before 2011 to at least 2 years — and probably longer for those with BRAF-V600-mutant disease. Herein, we review the clinical trial data that established the standard-of-care treatment approaches for advanced-stage melanoma. Mechanisms of resistance and biomarkers of response to BRAF-targeted treatments and immunotherapies are discussed, and the contrasting clinical benefits and limitations of these therapies are explored. We summarize the state of the field and outline a rational approach to frontline-treatment selection for each individual patient with BRAF-mutant melanoma.

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