Metastatic Melanoma - do you know all your options?
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Metastatic Melanoma - do you know all your options?


If you have metastatic melanoma, it’s important you’re aware of all your options before you and your specialists decide on your treatment.

You may already know about treatments funded by PHARMAC – but did you know that there are also other options available?

One of those options is a BRAF targeted combination therapy: an effective treatment that can help control advanced BRAF-positive melanoma1 for many patients.

What is BRAF positive melanoma?

BRAF is a protein in your cells that tells them when to grow and divide.2 In BRAF-positive cells the protein is faulty and so the signals that normally switch the protein off do not work causing the cells to multiply too quickly and create tumours.2 Another way of understanding this is imagine a light circuit in your home that has been built with a faulty switch. No matter how many times you click it up and down, the light remains on.

How do I know if my melanoma is BRAF positive?

Your specialist will carry out tests on your melanoma to find out whether your melanoma is BRAF-positive. Not all melanomas have faulty BRAF proteins, but up to 38% of them do.3

How do I know if a BRAF targeted combination therapy is the right treatment for me?

This can depend on a number of factors which your doctor will assess and, in consultation with you, decide if it is the most appropriate treatment for your melanoma. BRAF targeted combination therapy may not be the right treatment for all BRAF positive patients.

What is BRAF targeted combination therapy?

BRAF-combination therapy is a targeted treatment that blocks not only the BRAF-positive (faulty) protein from signalling but a second faulty protein called MEK from signalling.1 Combination therapy therefore targets two different proteins, blocking the stimulus that encourages the growth of metastatic melanoma. In effect, combination therapy turns off two switches in the circuit.

Healthy (non-cancer) cells also use this pathway. This means that combination therapy can also affect healthy cells, which, in turn, may lead to side effects. For more information about side effects, read the Cotellic Consumer Medicines information.

How effective is BRAF targeted combination therapy?

A clinical study found that 7 out of 10 patients taking a combination of both Cotellic® (cobimetinib) and Zelboraf® (vemurafenib) had their tumours shrink (compared to 5 out of 10 people taking only Zelboraf).1

This study also found that combination therapy reduced the risk of death and helped patients to live longer – on average stopping the disease from progressing for more than a year (12.3 months compared to 7 months with Zelboraf).1 This shows that the two medicines are most effective when used together as a ‘combination therapy’.

How can I access BRAF targeted combination therapy?

Although Zelboraf and Cotellic are not PHARMAC funded treatments, you can access them through a private oncology centre if they are recommended by your specialist.

What’s more, our cost share program can help to make them a more affordable treatment option – providing a number of doses free-of-charge and spreading the cost over time.

Find out if BRAF targeted combination therapy is right for you. Talk to your specialist today.


1. Ascerttio PA, McArthur GA, Drêno B, et al. Cobimetinib combined with vemurafenib in advanced BRAF V600- mutant melanoma (coBRIM): updated efficacy results from a randomised, double-blind, phase 3 trial. Lancet oncol 2016; 17:1248-60

2. Ascertio PA, Kirkwood JM, Grob J-J, et al. The role of BRAF V600 mutation in melanoma. J Transl Med 2012: 10:85

3. Jones AM, Ferguson P, Gardner J, et al. NRAS and EPHB6 mutation rates differ in metastatic melanomas of patients in the North Island versus South Island of New Zealand. Oncotarget 2016: 7:41017-41030