Defining the Criteria for Reflex Testing for BRAF Mutations in Cutaneous Melanoma Patients

Cancers (Basel). 2021 May 10;13(9):2282. doi: 10.3390/cancers13092282.


Targeted therapy has been developed through an in-depth understanding of molecular pathways involved in the pathogenesis of melanoma. Approximately ~50% of patients with melanoma have tumors that harbor a mutation of the BRAF oncogene. Certain clinical features have been identified in BRAF-mutated melanomas (primary lesions located on the trunk, diagnosed in patients <50, visibly pigmented tumors and, at times, with ulceration or specific dermatoscopic features). While BRAF mutation testing is recommended for stage III-IV melanoma, guidelines differ in recommending mutation testing in stage II melanoma patients. To fully benefit from these treatment options and avoid delays in therapy initiation, advanced melanoma patients harboring a BRAF mutation must be identified accurately and quickly. To achieve this, clear definition and implementation of BRAF reflex testing criteria/methods in melanoma should be established so that patients with advanced melanoma can arrive to their first medical oncology appointment with a known biomarker status. Reflex testing has proven effective for a variety of cancers in selecting therapies and driving other medical decisions. We overview the pathophysiology, clinical presentation of BRAF-mutated melanoma, current guidelines, and present recommendations on BRAF mutation testing. We propose that reflex BRAF testing should be performed for every melanoma patient with stages ≥IIB.

Keywords: BRAF inhibitor; BRAF mutation; MAPK pathway; advanced melanoma; metastatic melanoma; reflex testing; stage II; targeted therapy.

Publication types

  • Review