(Chemotherapy Advisor) – On March 1, 2012, a paper was published in the journal Clinical Cancer Research that could influence the way oncologists treat metastatic melanoma. The paper, titled “Sunitinib Therapy for Melanoma Patients with KIT Mutations”, was authored by Dr. David Minor and his colleagues at California Pacific Medical Center. Although sunitinib, a tyrosine kinase inhibitor, has been approved by the FDA for the treatment of kidney cancer and stromal gastrointestinal cancer, its effectiveness in melanoma was unknown until this study.

This Phase 2 trial aimed to assess the usefulness of sunitinib in treating patients with melanoma in parts of the body that are normally not exposed to sunlight, such as the mucosal surface of the mouth, the soles of the feet, and the palms of the hand. Melanomas in this area usually contain mutations in KIT, the tyrosine kinase receptor gene. According to the authors, this study aimed to assess the predictive role of KIT mutation, amplification, or overexpression for response to treatment with sunitinib. KIT mutation, amplification, and overexpression in melanoma tissue were assessed by molecular testing.

Patients with an aberrant KIT gene who were treated with sunitinib had either a complete remission or had at least a partial response. The authors of the study concluded that sunitinib looks like a promising drug for the treatment of metastatic melanoma, but that more study is needed to fully assess the drug’s safety and efficacy in this patient population.

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