Purpose: Somatic B-RAF gene mutation has been identified in many malignancies and detected at a high frequency in cutaneous malignant melanoma. However, the significance of the B-RAF mutation (B-RAFmt) in terms of its prognostic and predictive capabilities for treatment response or disease outcome is not known. We hypothesized that circulating serum B-RAFmt (B-RAFsmt) at V600E, detected in serum, predicts response in melanoma patients receiving concurrent biochemotherapy. Experimental Design: A real-time clamp quantitative reverse transcription-PCR assay was designed to assess B-RAFsmt by peptide nucleic acid clamping and a locked nucleic acid hybrid probe. Normal (n = 18) and American Joint Committee on Cancer stage I to IV melanoma patients (n = 103) were evaluated. These included stage IV patients (n = 48) with blood drawn before and after biochemotherapy. Patients were classified as biochemotherapy responders or nonresponders. Responders (n = 24) had a complete or partial response following biochemotherapy; nonresponders (n = 24) developed progressive disease. Results: Of the 103 melanoma patients, 38 (37%) had B-RAFsmt DNA, of which 11 of 34 (32%) were stage I or II, and 27 of 69 (39%) were stage III or IV. Of the 48 biochemotherapy patients, 10 of 24 (42%) patients were positive for the B-RAFsmt in the respective responder and nonresponder groups before treatment. After biochemotherapy, B-RAFsmt was detected in only 1 of 10 patients (10%) in the responder group and 7 of 10 patients (70%) in the nonresponder group. B-RAFsmt is associated with significantly worse (P = 0.039) overall survival in patients receiving biochemotherapy. Conclusion: These studies show the presence and utility of circulating B-RAFsmt DNA in melanoma patients.
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