Vemurafenib is a type of biological therapy drug called a cancer growth blocker. It stops cells producing a protein called BRAF, which makes some cancer cells grow and divide. About half of all melanoma skin cancers make too much BRAF due to a change in a gene. The gene is called the BRAF gene.
Vemurafenib is a treatment for people with advanced melanoma whose cancer cells have a change in the BRAF gene. You have a test to check for the gene change before starting treatment with vemurafenib.
Vemurafenib is also known by its brand name Zelboraf.
Common side effects
More than 10 in every 100 people have one or more of these effects
» Sensitivity to sunlight happens in 5 out of 10 people (50%) – don’t sit out in the sun, and make sure you cover up or use sun block on exposed skin
» Skin changes – about 3 out of 10 people (30%) have a rash or red, dry, itchy skin
» New skin cancers including squamous cell skin cancers happen in about a quarter of people (25%) – your doctor will check your skin during treatment and for 6 months afterwards. Let them know if you notice any skin changes between appointments. These can easily be removed if found early.
» Loss of appetite
» Headaches
» Tiredness during and after treatment
» Feeling or being sick happens in about 2 out of every 10 people (20%), but is usually well controlled with anti sickness medicines
» Hair thinning occurs in just under 4 out of 10 people (40%)
» Taste changes
» Diarrhoea – drink plenty of fluids and tell your doctor or nurse if diarrhoea becomes severe, or continues for more than 3 days
» Constipation – your doctor or nurse may give you laxatives to help prevent this. Drink plenty of fluids and tell your doctor or nurse if you are constipated for more than 3 days
» Aching joints and muscle or bone pain
» Pain in the hands and feet
» Back pain
» A high temperature for a few hours after the treatment
» Swelling due to fluid build up, usually in the legs
» Liver changes that are very mild and unlikely to cause symptoms – the liver will almost certainly go back to normal when treatment is finished, but you will have regular blood tests to check how well your liver is working
» A cough