Melanoma cells often have genetic mutations that cause the cells to rapidly divide and grow. Targeted therapy focuses on these mutations within specific molecules to block the growth of cancer, such as melanoma.
Targeted therapy is systemic, which means that the drugs reach parts of your body through the bloodstream. As a systemic cancer treatment, targeted therapy fights metastatic cancer, which has spread from the original tumor to other areas.
Dabrafenib (Tafinlar) is a drug that shrinks tumors and helps patients with advanced melanoma live longer.
What Is Dabrafenib (Tafinlar)?
Dabrafenib is a BRAF (pronounced bee-raff) inhibitor, which:
- Is a type of targeted therapy known as a signal transduction inhibitor
- Helps slow or stop the growth and spread of melanoma cells
How Does Dabrafenib (Tafinlar) Work?
Dabrafenib blocks the activity of a mutated protein called BRAF, a molecule that helps regulate cell growth. A BRAF mutation signals cells to develop abnormally and divide out of control. These cells grow into a melanoma tumor.
About half of all melanomas have a BRAF mutation. Dabrafenib specifically targets the V600E mutated BRAF protein. The drug interferes with abnormal BRAF signals to slow or stop the out-of-control cell growth.
Which Patients May Benefit from Dabrafenib (Tafinlar)?
In 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved dabrafenib to treat patients who have advanced stages of melanoma:
- Stage III that is unresectable (unable to be completely removed by surgery)
- Stage IV, also known as metastatic (melanoma cells that have spread to organs and other parts of the body)
If you have advanced melanoma, your physician will test you for BRAF mutations before prescribing dabrafenib. The physician will send a biopsy (sample of cancer tissue removed from your body) to a special lab for analysis. Dabrafenib:
- When given by itself, works only in patients who have tested positive for the BRAF V600E mutation
- Cannot be used to treat patients with the wild-type BRAF mutation
How Is Dabrafenib (Tafinlar) Given?
Patients take dabrafenib orally (swallowing by mouth).
- The recommended dose is 150 mg twice each day, via 50 or 75 mg capsules.
- Depending on how you respond to treatment, your physician may adjust your dose.
- Patients usually continue to take dabrafenib until their melanoma worsens or they experience unacceptable side effects.
What Are the Goals of Dabrafenib (Tafinlar)?
Dabrafenib targets specific molecules that regulate cancer cell growth, with the goals of:
- Slowing the growth or spread of melanoma
- Shrinking melanoma tumors
- Helping patients live longer
Results from studies and clinical trials showed that dabrafenib improved outcomes more than DTIC (dacarbazine), a chemotherapy drug.
Melanoma treatments, like dabrafenib, have side effects, which can sometimes be serious. Patients should talk with their physician to learn more about the side effects of dabrafenib and other melanoma treatment options.
What Should I Ask My Doctor About Dabrafenib (Tafinlar)?
Not all treatments work for all melanoma patients, because everyone is different. If you are interested in learning more about dabrafenib, here are some questions you should ask your physicians:
- Will my melanoma tumor be tested for BRAF genetic mutations?
- Am I eligible for dabrafenib?
- What is your experience with dabrafenib?
- Is dabrafenib a good option for my melanoma treatment?
- Is there an alternative to dabrafenib for me?
- How successful has dabrafenib been for patients like me?
- What are the side effects of dabrafenib?
- Are there any clinical trials for dabrafenib that I should consider?
- What other treatments are FDA-approved for treating advanced melanoma?
- What are the risks and benefits of the available treatment options?
- What are the goals for my treatment?
Latest Treatments for Advanced Melanoma
The FDA has approved several new, effective treatments for patients who have advanced melanoma. Learn more about:
- Other types of targeted therapy, including:Vemurafenib (Zelboraf)
- Trametinib (Mekinist)
- Dabrafenib (Tafinlar) + Trametinib (Mekinist) in combination
- Vemurafenib (Zelboraf) + Cobimetinib (Cotellic) in combination
- Combination therapy
Since its founding in 2007, the Melanoma Research Alliance has awarded over $100 million to research aimed at better preventing, diagnosing and treating melanoma. Learn more about our funded research.
Last reviewed: May 2016
Reviewers: Paul Chapman, Antoni Ribas, Louise Perkins