The clinical benefit of combined treatment with BRAF- and MEK-inhibitors (BRAFi; MEKi) in BRAFV600 mutant (BRAFm) melanoma is limited due to resistance after 6-14 months, associated with emerging secondary mutations. Withholding of treatment leads to reversible hyperactivation of the MAPK pathway, causing transient growth arrest and increase in Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) in preclinical studies. Treatment of BRAFi/MEKi resistant melanoma cells with vorinostat leads to a further increase in ROS, effectively killing BRAFi resistant cells. In vivo, switch from BRAFi to vorinostat in BRAFi resistant BRAFm melanoma resulted in a decline in tumor volume. Six patients with resistant BRAFm melanoma were treated with vorinostat 360 mg QD continuously. These patients revealed regression of mutant clones and progression of BRAFi sensitive clones. Tumor biopsies showed newly developed secondary MAPK pathway mutations, e.g. NRASQ61H and KRASG12C amplifications at start and a complete absence of these resistant mutations after two weeks of vorinostat. Based on these findings we postulate that BRAFi resistant BRAFm melanoma cells can be eliminated by a short treatment with vorinostat due to killing of tumor cells harboring a secondary mutation in the MAPK pathway. In vitro experiments confirmed this hypothesis.
This is a proof of concept study to determine the efficacy of sequential treatment with vorinostat and BRAFi/MEKi in BRAFi resistant BRAFm melanoma. Patients with age ≥ 18 years, WHO performance 0-2 and progression on BRAFi/MEKi are eligible. 26 evaluable patients with resistant BRAFm melanoma will be treated with vorinostat 360 mg continuously for 2 weeks and thereafter switch back to BRAFi/MEKi. The primary aim is to demonstrate ≥ 30% anti-tumor response of progressive lesions according to RECIST 1.1 upon sequenced treatment with vorinostat and BRAFi/MEKi. Secondary endpoints are to demonstrate that emerging resistant clones with a secondary mutation in the MAPK pathway can be detected by ctDNA analysis and purged by short term treatment with vorinostat. Blood and tumor biopsies will be taken for pharmacokinetic, pharmacodynamic and pharmacogenetic exploratory analyses.
Clinical trial identification
Legal entity responsible for the study
The Netherlands Cancer Institute.
J.H.M. Schellens: Shareholder / Stockholder / Stock options, and patent holder on oral taxenes: Modra Pharmaceutical. All other authors have declared no conflicts of interest.