Sunitinib showed activity in the treatment of mucosal and acral melanoma whether or not the patients had a KIT mutation, according to a new study published online ahead of print in the journal Cancer; however, it was poorly tolerated and no patient experienced a prolonged response.

Patients with mucosal and acral melanoma have limited treatment options available to them and a poor prognosis. Some patients with this subtype of skin cancer possess a mutation in the KIT oncogene, which can be targeted by the kinase inhibitor, sunitinib.

For the multicenter phase 2 trial, researchers enrolled 52 patients with unresectable stage 3 or 4 mucosal or acral melanoma. Patients were assigned to receive either sunitinib 50 mg daily for 4 weeks of a 6-week cycle or sunitinib 37.5 mg daily continuously.

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Results showed that four patients achieved partial responses lasting between 5 and 10 months. Of those, one patient possessed a KIT mutation.

Researchers found that 52% (95% CI: 38, 66) of patients in both groups were alive and progression-free at 2 months, which was significantly larger than the researchers expected.

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However, the study demonstrated no significant difference in response or overall survival between the 25% of patients with a KIT mutation compared with those without one.

In regard to safety, the researchers observed a high rate of toxicity associated with sunitinib treatment in both groups.


  1. Buchbinder EI, Sosman JA, Lawrence DP, et al. Phase 2 study of sunitinib in patients with metastatic mucosal or acral melanoma. Cancer. 2015. [epub ahead of print]. doi: 10.1002/cncr.29622.