Vemurafenib is taken in pill form
In 2002, a paper appeared in top science journal, Nature, called “Mutations of the BRAF gene in human cancer”.
It described how scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Centre had made a breakthrough.
They’d discovered that a gene called BRAF was faulty in about seven out of 10 cases of melanoma – the most serious form of skin cancer.
The researchers had also isolated a particular fault in the gene, which they dubbed V600E, which was responsible for about five out of 10 melanoma cases.
We’re extremely proud to have helped support this work, which you can read more about in Kat’s post from a couple of years ago. And over the years we helped support research to map out how this gene causes cancer, and how it might be targeted with drugs.
Today, a decade later, pharmaceutical giants Roche have launched a new drug called vemurafenib, or Zelboraf, in the UK. Building on the fundamental work of our researchers, the drug targets melanomas caused by the BRAF V600E mutation.
We’ve tracked vemurafenib’s development on this blog, from its early days as a chemical called PLX4032 to the excitement it generated at last years’ ASCO cancer conference in the US.
But while it’s always great to see new drugs emerge – particularly for conditions like advanced melanoma, which has seen little progress for decades – we need to temper this excitement with a few caveats.