Molecular testing for BRAF mutations to inform melanoma treatment decisions: A move toward precision medicine

Liang Cheng, Antonio Lopez-Beltran, Francesco Massari, Gregory T. Maclennan, Rodolfo Montironi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

78 Scopus citations


Approximately one-half of advanced (unresectable or metastatic) melanomas harbor a mutation in the BRAF gene, with V600E being the most common mutation. Targeted therapy with BRAF and MEK inhibitors is associated with significant long-term treatment benefit in patients with BRAF V600-mutated melanoma. Therefore, molecular testing for BRAF mutations is a priority in determining the course of therapy. A literature search was performed using MEDLINE/PubMed and scientific congress databases using the terms € BRAF,€ mutation,' and € cancer/tumor.' These results were filtered to include manuscripts that focused on diagnostic tests for determining BRAF mutation status. Numerous BRAF testing methods were identified, including DNA-based companion diagnostic tests and DNA- and protein-based laboratory-developed tests. Herein we review the characteristics of each method and highlight the strengths and weaknesses that should be considered before use and when interpreting results for each patient. Molecular profiling has shown that mutation load increases with melanoma tumor progression and that unique patterns of genetic changes and evolutionary trajectories for different melanoma subtypes can occur. Discordance in the BRAF mutational status between primary and metastatic lesions, as well as intratumoral heterogeneity, is known to occur. Additionally, the development of acquired resistance to combination BRAF and MEK inhibitor therapy is still a formidable obstacle. Therefore, tumor heterogeneity and the development of acquired resistance have important implications for molecular testing and ultimately the treatment of patients with advanced-stage melanoma. Overall, this information may help community oncologists more accurately and effectively interpret results of diagnostic tests within the context of recent data characterizing melanoma tumor progression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24-38
Number of pages15
JournalModern Pathology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine

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