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Clin Cancer Res. 2013 Oct 1;19(19):5283-91. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-13-2151.

The intersection of immune-directed and molecularly targeted therapy in advanced melanoma: where we have been, are, and will be.

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Authors' Affiliations: Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts; and Karmanos Cancer Institute, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan.


In three years, four drugs have gained regulatory approval for the treatment of metastatic and unresectable melanoma, with at least seven other drugs having recently completed, currently in, or soon to be in phase III clinical testing. This amazing achievement has been made following a remarkable increase of knowledge in molecular biology and immunology that led to the identification of high-valued therapeutic targets and the clinical development of agents that effectively engage and inhibit these targets. The discovery of either effective molecularly targeted therapies or immunotherapies would have led to dramatic improvements to the standard-of-care treatment of melanoma. However, through parallel efforts that have showcased the efficacy of small-molecule BRAF and MAP-ERK kinase (MEK) inhibitors, as well as the immune checkpoint inhibitors, namely ipilimumab and the anti-PD1/PDL1 antibodies (lambrolizumab, nivolumab, MPDL3280), an opportunity exists to transform the treatment of melanoma specifically and cancer generally by exploring rational combinations of molecularly targeted therapies, immunotherapies, and molecular targeted therapies with immunotherapies. This overview presents the historical context to this therapeutic revolution, reviews the benefits and limitations of current therapies, and provides a look ahead at where the field is headed.

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