What is metastatic melanoma?
Metastatic melanoma is a type of advanced skin cancer. It starts in a cell called a melanocyte, which is located in the top layer of the skin. Melanocytes produce a pigment called melanin, which gives skin its color. Melanin helps protect the deeper layers of the skin from ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.
Sometimes melanocytes are damaged, for example by UV rays. When this happens, these skin cells can form a melanoma. If the melanoma isn’t caught early, the cells can divide out of control and form an abnormal growth called a tumor.
Melanomas can develop anywhere on the body. However, they are more likely to start on parts of the body that have been exposed to the sun, such as the chest, back, legs, and face. If melanoma is not caught early, it can spread into the lymph nodes and other areas of the body, such as the brain, lungs, liver, distant areas of the skin, and other organs. This is called metastatic melanoma.
What are the risk factors for metastatic melanoma?
Anyone can get metastatic melanoma. However, there are several risk factors that make people more likely to develop melanoma, including
- UV light exposure. UV rays from the sun or tanning beds can damage the DNA of skin cells, resulting in abnormal cell growth
- Fair skin, freckles, or light hair. People with fair skin are more likely to develop melanoma because they have less melanin in their skin to protect it from UV damage
- A family history of skin cancer. People have a higher risk of developing melanoma if a family member has had it. This may be because of genetic changes (mutations) that are inherited
What is BRAF mutation-positive metastatic melanoma?
In healthy cells, certain proteins (called BRAF and MEK) help regulate normal cell growth. However, approximately half of all patients with metastatic melanoma test positive for a mutation, or error, in the BRAF gene. This mutated BRAF gene can create a defective BRAF protein that may send constant signals to the MEK protein. The nonstop signals from BRAF can cause cells to grow and replicate too quickly. This uncontrolled cell growth is one of the reasons that cancer can spread.
How COTELLIC + ZELBORAF works
Studies in cancer cells have shown that COTELLIC and ZELBORAF help reduce overactive signaling by working together. COTELLIC + ZELBORAF may also affect signaling in healthy cells.
COTELLIC + ZELBORAF helps by regulating MEK and BRAF. ZELBORAF is designed to attach to some mutated forms of BRAF. This helps reduce BRAF signaling. COTELLIC is designed to attach to MEK. This helps reduce signaling to other proteins in the cell. Together, COTELLIC and ZELBORAF may help decrease tumor growth in BRAF mutation-positive metastatic melanoma.
Important words to know
Gene: Genes are pieces of DNA inside each cell. Most genes contain the information for making a specific protein. The BRAF gene makes the BRAF protein.
Melanocyte: Melanocytes are cells that produce a pigment called melanin, which gives skin its color.
Protein: A molecule that is needed for the body to function properly. The BRAF protein is part of a chain of molecules that relay a signal that tells cells how to grow and divide.