Some Melanoma Cells Hide From BRAF Inhibitor Therapy Interview with:
Keiran Smalley, PhD.
Scientific Director
The Comprehensive Melanoma Research Center
Associate Professor
The Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute,
Tampa, FL

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Smalley: The major finding of this study is that some melanomas (those which are BRAF mutant and PTEN null) can evade BRAF inhibitor therapy by remodeling their environment. Essentially the cells make a protective niche that allows them to escape from the drug. By attaching to this newly synthesized extracellular matrix the melanoma cells generate their own survival signals.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Smalley: This work has uncovered another mechanism by which melanoma cells can “hide” from therapy. Developing strategies that target these adaptations will prove critical if we ever want to achieve cures for cancer. This is particularly important for an aggressive cancers like melanoma where as little as one cell can repopulate the tumor.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Smalley: New strategies need to be developed that target both the tumor and its mechanisms of adaptation to therapy.

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I V Fedorenko, E V Abel, J M Koomen, B Fang, E R Wood, Y A Chen, K J Fisher, S Iyengar, K B Dahlman, J A Wargo, K T Flaherty, J A Sosman, V K Sondak, J L Messina, G T Gibney, K S M Smalley. Fibronectin induction abrogates the BRAF inhibitor response of BRAF V600E/PTEN-null melanoma cells. Oncogene, 2015; DOI: 10.1038/onc.2015.188