I had dinner last night with two melanoma researchers. One is an M.D.; the other has an M.D and a Ph.D. The discussion quickly moved to new studies and treatments for melanoma, and the conversation became heavily peppered with acronyms. BRAF, NRAS, c-KIT, PTEN, AKT, m-TOR.
While these terms may not exactly roll off the tongue of the average person, I was glad to hear so many being bandied around. Why? Each of those phrases and terms represents a potential target for attacking melanoma. Over 75% of melanoma patients have a mutation in one of three areas: BRAF, NRAS, or c-Kit. Shutting down the activity of those mutations may mean killing the tumor cells. The fact is, we have drugs that block c-Kit, and a BRAF blockade has just been submitted for FDA approval. Nothing for NRAS yet, but work is being done on that and other mutations.
If doctors can find the right combinations in this alphabet soup of mutated genes and over-active proteins, the result may spell something very different—something like CURE.