What is BRAF, and Why is it Important in Melanoma and its Treatment?

Adding samples to microfuge tubesIf you have a spot on your skin that is new and looks unusual, you should have it evaluated by consulting a dermatologist. And even if you don’t think you have any worrisome spots on your body, it can be difficult to be sure. “We often recommend individuals at risk for skin cancer get a skin screening by a qualified health care professional,” says Dr. Adam Mamelak, dermatologist and skin cancer specialist in Austin, Texas.  “It’s often hard to examine your body in its entirety, there are areas that you can’t easily see, so a skin check is helpful, just to be sure.”

If you visit the doctor for a suspicious spot, and they find after testing that you have melanoma, you’ll need to educate yourself on the cancer and its treatment possibilities. In learning about skin cancer, one question may come up: what is BRAF, and why is it important in melanoma and its treatment? Although the answer can be a little technical, it is important to understand for your health and treatment.

What is BRAF?

BRAF is the genetic mutation that is directly linked to turning normal cells cancerous. When this protein mutates, which occurs in about half of all melanoma cases, it causes the melanoma cells to grow and divide rapidly. Your doctor should determine whether BRAF is mutated in your disease because treatment can be directly targeted to this protein.

“It’s a crucial piece, especially with the increasing rates of these tumors,” says Dr. Mamelak. “New medications can actually target and inhibit mutated BRAF activity. Because the mutated BRAF protein can make melanoma spread and grow quickly, by inhibiting it, we can essential slow and interrupt the growth of these cancers.”

Targeted Medications

Medications taken are typically in the form of pills and capsules. In addition to BRAF inhibitors, you may also be prescribed MEK inhibitors. The MEK protein functions in the same signaling pathway as the BRAF protein; therefore, if you block the MEK protein, you are also treating genes with mutated BRAF proteins. Your doctor may even recommend you take both types of medicines at once to effectively combat the melanoma.

Contact Us

Your health is important and if you have melanoma, you must be sure to find the best possible ways to treat it. To schedule an appointment, please contact us. Because if you have melanoma, you shouldn’t wait to take action.

Dr. Adam Mamelak diagnoses and treats patients with skin cancer at Sanova Dermatology and the Austin Mohs Surgery Center.

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