Medications for Melanoma
by Editorial Staff and Contributors
The primary treatment for melanoma is surgical removal of the tumor. For metastatic melanoma or in cases when surgery is not an option, immunotherapy or targeted therapy may be used.
Immunotherapy, or biological response modifier therapy, involves using medications to boost the effects of the body's immune system to recognize and kill cancer cells. These medications are given through an IV or injected under the skin.
Types of immunotherapy medications include:
Side effects include chills, fever, aches, depression, skin reactions, and fatigue.
About half of melanomas have a gene mutation known as BRAF. This gene causes the body to make proteins that accelerate the growth of cancer cells. Targeted therapy uses medications to seek out the cells with the BRAF mutation and destroy them.
Targeted therapy medications include:
Although these medications do not offer a cure for advanced melanoma, they can prolong life. The most common side effects are joint pain, fatigue, hair loss, rash, itching, sensitivity to the sun, and nausea.
Bedikian AY, Johnson MM, Warneke CL, et al. Systemic therapy for unresectable metastatic melanoma: impact of biochemotherapy on long-term survival. J Immunotoxicol. 2008;5(2):201-207.
Eggermont AM, Robert C. New drugs in melanoma: It's a whole new world. Eur J Cancer. 2011;47(14):2150-2157.
Hancock BW, Wheatley K, Harris S, et al. Adjuvant interferon in high-risk melanoma: the AIM HIGH Study—United Kingdom Coordinating Committee on Cancer Research randomized study of adjuvant low-dose extended-duration interferon Alfa-2a in high-risk resected malignant melanoma. J Clin Oncol. 2004;22(1):53-61.
Lens M. The role of vaccine therapy in the treatment of melanoma. Expert Opin Biol Ther. 2008;8(3):315-323.
Lipson EJ, Drake CG. Ipilimumab: an anti-CTLA-4 antibody for metastatic melanoma. Clin Cancer Res. 2011;17(22):6958-6962.
Melanoma. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115302/Melanoma. Updated August 26, 2016. Accessed October 20, 2016.
Melanoma. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated July 2015. Accessed October 20, 2016.
Melanoma skin cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed October 20, 2016.
Stein JA, Brownell I. Treatment approaches for advanced cutaneous melanoma. J Drugs Dermatol. 2008;7(2):175-179.
Treatment option overview. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/skin/patient/melanoma-treatment-pdq#section/_135. Updated July 22, 2016. Accessed October 20, 2016.
Treatment options by stage. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/skin/patient/melanoma-treatment-pdq#section/_165. Updated July 22, 2016. Accessed October 20, 2016.
Last reviewed March 2016 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
Last Updated: 10/20/2016
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.