The U.S. FDA today approved Genetech’s Cotellic (cobimetinib) to be used in combination with vemurafenib to treat advanced melanoma that has spread to other parts of the body or can’t be removed by surgery, and that has a certain type of abnormal gene (BRAF V600E or V600K mutation).  Melanoma is the most aggressive and dangerous form of skin cancer in the United States. It forms in the skin cells that develop the skin’s pigment and if not diagnosed early, the cancer is likely to spread to other parts of the body. The National Cancer Institute estimates that 73,870 Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma and 9,940 will die from the disease this year.

Cotellic works by blocking the activity of an enzyme known as MEK, which is part of a larger signaling pathway. Abnormal activity of signaling pathways can lead to cancer. Cotellic prevents or slows cancer cell growth. Cotellic was discovered by Exelixis Inc. and was developed by Genentech in collaboration with Exelixis. The drug is also being investigated in combination with several investigational medicines, including an immunotherapy, in several tumor types such as non-small cell lung cancer and colorectal cancer.  It will be available to people in the United States within two weeks.