A recent trial of combined nivolumab and ipilimumab as frontline therapy in patients with asymptomatic melanoma brain metastases demonstrated a complete response rate of 26% and partial response rate of 30% in patients with a median follow-up of 14 months.25 In a separate study, ipilimumab plus nivolumab demonstrated better intracranial ORR when compared to nivolumab alone in asymptomatic, previously untreated patients. Outcomes were better in patients presenting with asymptomatic versus symptomatic brain metastases.26 Collectively, these results suggest that systemic immunotherapy alone may be adequate for patients with asymptomatic, previously untreated brain metastases.
For molecularly targeted therapy in patients with BRAF mutations and brain metastases, the BREAK-MB trial demonstrated that an intracranial response was attainable with dabrafenib regardless of whether the patient had previously received local therapy in the form of surgery or radiation.27 The COMBI-MB trial enhanced the preexisting data by testing the intracranial efficacy of dabrafenib plus trametinib in 4 different cohorts of patients, further supporting that systemic molecularly targeted therapy can provide significant intracranial activity in patients with both symptomatic and asymptomatic brain lesions and regardless of prior local therapy (Table 2).28
The treatment of advanced melanoma has been drastically improved over the past decade by the development and study of immune checkpoint inhibitors and molecularly targeted agents. There is still much to learn regarding the optimal combination and sequencing of therapies. Many of these trials are ongoing and will provide additional evidence to guide treatment decisions moving forward.