Penn Study: Blocking Autophagy with Malaria Drug May Help Overcome Resistance to BRAF Drugs in Melanoma


February 25, 2014

Half of melanoma patients with the BRAF mutation have a positive response to treatment with BRAF inhibitors, but nearly all of those patients develop resistance to the drugs and experience disease progression. Now, a new preclinical study published online ahead of print in the Journal of Clinical Investigation from Penn Medicine researchers found that in many cases the root of the resistance may lie in a never-before-seen autophagy mechanism induced by the BRAF inhibitors vermurafenib and dabrafenib. Autophagy is a process by which cancer cells recycle essential building blocks to fuel further growth. Block this pathway with the antimalarial drug hydroxycholoroquine (HCQ), the authors found, and the BRAF inhibitors will be able to do their job better.

Penn Medicine News Release