First author Dr. Richard Koya, a Jonsson Cancer Center scientist and an assistant professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, said animals that received a combination of the recently approved BRAF inhibitor Zelboraf and an engineered T-cell immunotherapy had better tumor responses and lived more than twice as long as those getting either therapy alone.
About 50 percent of patients with metastatic melanoma have the BRAF mutation and can be treated with the drug Zelboraf. More than 50 percent of the patients respond to the drug, but the responses usually last only a few months.
However, with immunotherapy, fewer patients respond, but the responses are more durable, Koya said.
By pairing these therapies in a one–two punch, researchers hope to maintain the high response rates associated with Zelboraf and combine them with the longer disease-free progression times seen with immunotherapy, Koya said.
"The idea was to target two different aspects of anti-cancer biology, hitting the tumor cells themselves with the BRAF inhibitor and adding in T-cells -- white blood cells associated with immunity -- educated to induce a specific anti-tumor immune response," Koya said. "The results we saw in this study were very promising."
The findings were published in the journal Cancer Research.