Advanced Melanoma Is Not a "One Size Fits All" Disease

Advanced melanoma (unresectable or metastatic melanoma) is not caused by one behavior or genetic mutation. It can vary due to changes in the genes that are unique to each person with the disease. In fact, melanoma is one of the cancers with the highest frequency of mutations. There are several melanoma mutations that you can be tested for, and identifying your form is an important step in determining how you can best fight this disease.



This mutation is found in nearly half of all advanced melanomas and is the most common type of genetic mutation associated with the disease. There are several forms of BRAF mutations, including V600E, V600K, V600D, V600G, and V600R. Learn more about BRAF+ Advanced Melanoma.


The second most common mutation found in advanced melanoma is NRAS. These mutations have been found in 15%-20% of melanomas. These tumors tend to be thicker and grow faster.


The c-KIT mutation can vary based on ethnicity. These mutations have been found in about 6%-7% of advanced melanoma in Caucasians, but are more common in Asian populations. c-KIT mutations are more likely to be found in melanomas that start on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, under the nails, or inside the mouth or nose or other mucosal areas.


other mutations
If a gene test was conducted, and no mutation was detected, the tumor may be referred to as "Wild-Type." Wild-Type means that no specific gene mutation was identified in the melanoma tumor.

When it comes to advanced melanoma (unresectable or metastatic), knowledge is powerful. A genetic test can help identify if the tumor has a mutation. Genetic tests are performed on a sample of the tumor that has been removed by your doctor (also known as a biopsy). If you or someone you know has advanced melanoma, make sure to talk to your doctor about your mutation status. Learn more about melanoma testing and treatment options.


Think of the BRAF gene like the director of a movie. The BRAF gene gives instructions for making a protein, called B-RAF, which controls several important cell functions, including how quickly the cell grows, how often it divides, and how long it lives.

Changes to the BRAF gene can result in abnormal signaling in the MAPK pathway — a chain of many proteins, including B-RAF (made by the BRAF gene) — and stimulate the growth of melanoma cells. The BRAF mutation is the most common type of mutation in advanced melanoma. BRAF mutation is most common in patients whose tumors are not caused by chronic sun-induced damage.

Learn more about the MAPK pathway.

mapk pathway

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