Dabrafenib (Tafinlar™)

The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: September 5, 2013

Pronounced: da braf' e nib
Classification: Kinase Inhibitor

About Dabrafenib

BRAF is a protein kinase that plays a role in regulating genes that are responsible for cell replication and survival. It is estimated that 50% of melanomas contain an abnormal form of BRAF (also called/known as a BRAF mutation). This mutated form of BRAF appears to promote overgrowth of these cancer cells. Dabrafenib works by blocking the actions of the abnormal BRAF, inhibiting cell replication and potentially causing cell death.

How to Take Dabrafenib

Dabrafenib is given in a capsule form and is typically taken twice a day, 12 hours apart, at the same time each day. Dabrafenib capsules should be taken on an empty stomach (1 hour before or 2 hours after meals) and should not be opened, crushed, broken or chewed. A missed dose can be taken up to 6 hours before the next scheduled dose. Do not take two doses at once to make up for a missed dose.

BRAF Testing

Because this medication only works in melanoma that has a specific BRAF mutation called V600E, this abnormality must be tested for prior to starting the medication to identify patients appropriate for therapy. In order to test for mutated BRAF, a sample of the tumor is sent to a special laboratory that performs this test.

Possible Side Effects of Dabrafenib

There are a number of things you can do to manage the side effects of Dabrafenib. Talk to your doctor or nurse about these recommendations. They can help you decide what will work best for you. These are some of the most common side effects:


Fever can be a serious side effect of this medication. If you develop a fever of 101 or greater, call your healthcare team right away and before taking the next dose of medication.

Hand Foot Syndrome

Hand and foot syndrome (HFS) is a skin reaction that appears on the palms of the hands and/or the soles of the feet as a result of certain chemotherapy agents being absorbed by the skin cells. HFS can begin as a mild tingling, numbness, pins-and-needles feeling, or pain or swelling of the hands and/or feet. This can then progress to painful swelling, blistering or peeling skin that can interfere with your ability to do normal activities. Be sure to let your oncology team know right away if you notice these symptoms, as they may need to adjust the chemotherapy dose or take a break to allow the skin to heal. Some tips to help prevent HFS include:

  • Avoid tight shoes or socks.
  • Avoid activities that put pressure on the palms or soles for 1 week after treatment.
  • Apply moisturizer liberally and often.
  • Avoid hot water for baths and showers.

Visit OncoLink's Guide to HFS for more information.

High Blood Sugar

This medication can cause high blood sugar levels. Diabetics should have their blood sugar monitored while on therapy and may require increase or initiation of hyperglycemia medications. If you develop excessive thirst, increased urination, or your breath smells fruity, notify your healthcare team.

Headache, Muscle and Joint Pain/Aches

Your doctor or nurse can recommend medication and other strategies to relive pain. Learn more about pain management on OncoLink.

Loss or Thinning of Scalp and Body Hair (Alopecia)

Your hair may become thin, brittle, or may fall out. This typically begins two to three weeks after treatment starts. This hair loss can be all body hair, including pubic, underarm, legs/arms, eyelashes, and nose hairs. The use of scarves, wigs, hats and hairpieces may help. Hair generally starts to regrow soon after treatment is completed. Remember your hair helps keep you warm in cold weather, so a hat is particularly important in cold weather or to protect you from the sun. Learn more about hair loss on OncoLink.

New Skin Cancer

In clinical trials, some patients developed a new skin cancer (melanoma or squamous cell cancer). You should have skin examinations every 2 months while on therapy and for 6 months after the medication has been stopped. Check your own skin regularly and report any new "warts", sores or bumps that bleed or do not heal or notice any changes in moles to your healthcare provider.

Eye Issues

In clinical trials, several patients developed conditions called uveitis and iritis, which is a swelling or irritation of the middle layer and the colored part of the eye, respectively. Symptoms of this condition include blurry vision, "floaters" (dark spots in the field of vision), eye redness or pain and sensitivity to light. If you develop any of these symptoms or changes in your vision, notify your healthcare provider right away.

Reproductive Concerns

Exposure of an unborn child to this medication could cause birth defects, so you should not become pregnant or father a child while on this medication. Effective birth control is necessary during treatment and for at least 4 weeks after, even if your menstrual cycle stops or you believe your sperm is affected. This medication can make hormonal birth control (birth control pills, patches, injections) less effective, so alternate methods should be used.

This medication can cause lower sperm counts and may affect the ability to father a child. Talk with your healthcare provider about fertility preservation options.


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