What is the BRAF biomarker?
The BRAF gene is present in each of the cells in our body and it holds the instructions for making a protein by the same name, BRAF. The normal (wild type) BRAF protein works together with a group of proteins called the EGFR/ RAS /MAPK pathway to stimulate growth and division of cells in response to bodily needs and environmental cues. When the BRAF gene is mutated, it instructs an abnormal BRAF protein to continuously signal for cells to grow, and it cannot be turned off.
What does a BRAF mutation mean?
When and how should I have BRAF biomarker testing?
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) and American Society of Clinical Oncologists (ASCO) recommend BRAF testing for everyone diagnosed with stage IV, metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) and before initiating therapy with anti-EGFR inhibitors.
Your doctor may also recommend re-testing the tumor for new or additional mutations when chemotherapy treatment stops working and the stage IV tumor grows again.
What do I do with this information?
Knowing the details of tumor biomarkers can help you and your doctor make decisions about personalized treatment with therapies tailored specifically to the characteristics of your tumor.
- The BRAF V600E mutation is a biomarker for aggressive tumor growth behavior. The mortality risk for patients with a BRAF mutation is more than two times higher than for those with normal BRAF gene. Therefore, knowing about a BRAF gene mutation is a prognostic biomarker that shows the need for aggressive treatment.
- The BRAF mutation is also a predictive biomarker, which means it predicts that your tumor is unlikely to respond to treatment with EGFR inhibitors when given alone or in combination with chemotherapy.
What treatment options are available?
What are the potential side effects of BRAF inhibitors?
Every treatment has the potential to cause some side effects. Some people may be more sensitive than others to a particular drug. It also depends on your other treatments, medications, vitamins, and herbal supplements. For example, side effects could be worse if you are treated with radiation at the same time. Tell your doctor or pharmacist about all of your medications, vitamins, and treatments.
Some of the most common side effects associated with BRAF inhibitors are feeling or being sick, headache and dizziness, fatigue, diarrhea or constipation, skin problems, joint or muscle pain, and anemia/low hemoglobin levels. It is unlikely that you will experience all of these side effects, but you might have some of them. Call your doctor immediately if you are experiencing severe symptoms.
For more on side effects of other chemotherapy regimens, click here.
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