FDA approves Tafinlar/Mekinist for BRAF V600-mutant melanoma

The FDA has approved Tafinlar in combination with Mekinist for the adjuvant treatment of patients with melanoma with BRAF V600E or V600K mutation…


Novartis has announced that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Tafinlar (dabrafenib) in combination with Mekinist(trametinib) for the adjuvant treatment of patients with melanoma with BRAF V600E or V600K mutation, as detected by an FDA-approved test, and involvement of lymph node(s), following complete resection. The FDA granted the combination Breakthrough Therapy Designation for this indication in October 2017 and Priority Review in December 2017.

“Since the initial approval of Tafinlar and Mekinist in metastatic melanoma in 2013, the combination has become an important therapy for many patients carrying a BRAF mutation in both melanoma and lung cancers,” said Liz Barrett, CEO, Novartis Oncology. “Today’s FDA approval is an important milestone for patients who previously had limited treatment options in the adjuvant setting, and reflects our commitment to the ongoing development of this breakthrough treatment.”

The melanoma approval is based on results from COMBI-AD, a Phase III study of 870 patients with Stage III BRAF V600E/K mutation-positive melanoma treated with Tafinlar + Mekinist after complete surgical resection1. Patients received the Tafinlar (150 mg BID) + Mekinist (2 mg QD) combination (n = 438) or matching placebos (n = 432)1. After a median follow-up of 2.8 years, the primary endpoint of relapse-free survival (RFS) was met. Treatment with the combination therapy significantly reduced the risk of disease recurrence or death by 53% as compared to placebo (HR: 0.47 [95% CI: 0.39-0.58]; p<0.0001; median not reached with combination therapy vs. 16.6 months with placebo)1. The RFS benefit among the combination arm was observed across all patient subgroups, including disease sub-stage1. Improvements were also observed in key secondary endpoints including overall survival (OS), distant metastasis-free survival (DMFS) and freedom from relapse (FFR)1. These results were published in the New England Journal of MedicineOctober 20171.

“The purpose of adjuvant therapy is to improve recurrence-free and overall survival in our patients with melanoma. Adjuvant therapy options are crucial today because more than half of patients have a recurrence after surgery,” said Dr John M. Kirkwood, Usher Professor of Medicine, Director of Melanoma and Skin Cancer, University of Pittsburgh. “We developed the first adjuvant therapy approved by the FDA 22 years ago, and now we have the first effective oral targeted therapy combination that prevents relapse among patients with BRAF-mutated melanoma that has spread to lymph nodes.”

“Prevention and early detection are important safeguards from melanoma, but that’s only half the picture. Melanoma is an aggressive cancer that can recur, particularly when it shows certain warning signs like increased depth, ulceration, or spread to the lymph nodes,” said Dr Sancy Leachman, Chair of the Department of Dermatology at OHSU School of Medicine. “With proven treatment options for these patients, it is important for dermatologists to assure that appropriate patients are offered adjuvant treatment options – a ‘watch and wait’ approach is no longer the standard of care. Collaborating with a multidisciplinary care team of surgeons, pathologists and oncologists, and determining the right treatment based on the patient’s individual circumstances and mutational status is crucial to our patients’ care plans.”

Adverse events (AEs) were consistent with other Tafinlar + Mekinist studies, and no new safety signals were reported1. Of patients treated with the combination, 97% experienced an AE, 41% had grade 3/4 AEs and 26% had AEs leading to treatment discontinuation (vs. 88%, 14%, and 3%, respectively, with placebo)1.

About Tafinlar and Mekinist
In the EU, Tafinlar in combination with Mekinist is approved for the treatment of patients with a BRAF V600 mutation in metastatic melanoma and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

In the US, Tafinlar in combination with Mekinist is approved for the treatment of patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma with BRAF V600E or K mutations, as detected by an FDA-approved test, and for the adjuvant treatment of melanoma with BRAF V600E or K mutations and involvement of lymph node(s) following complete resection. Tafinlar + Mekinist is also approved for BRAF V600E mutation-positive NSCLC.

Tafinlar and Mekinist are also indicated in more than 60 countries worldwide, including the US and EU, as single agents to treat patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma with a BRAF V600 mutation.

Indications vary by country and not all indications are available in every country. The safety and efficacy profile of Tafinlar and Mekinist have not yet been established outside the approved indications. Because of the uncertainty of clinical trials, there is no guarantee that Tafinlar and Mekinist will become commercially available for additional indications anywhere else in the world.


  1. Long GV, Hauschild A, Santinami M, et al. Adjuvant Dabrafenib Plus Trametinib for Stage III BRAF V600E/K–Mutant Melanoma. New England Journal of Medicine. 2017; 377:1813-182. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1708539.