Common Medications and Treatments for Metastatic Melanoma

Treatment goals include:

  • Prolonging life
  • Shrinking growth of known metastases
  • Preventing spread at new sites
  • Giving emotional as well as physical support

Depending on the nature of metastases, treatment may involve drugs, surgery and/or radiation.  Generally, a cure is not possible.

Treatment Category How the Treatment Works



Works with your immune system to slow or stop cancer cell growth

Two types:

1) Interleukin-2: Stops growth for as much as 5 years.  Given three times a day for 5 days, twice each month as inpatient

2) Ipilimumab: Stimulates the immune system to react against melanomas, given once every 3 weeks for a 4-dose total.

Targeted Therapy

(E.G. vemurafenib, dabrafenib, trametinib)

Inhibits specific enzymes or molecules needed by cancer cells

Blocks the specific protein made by cells containing a specific mutation in one gene (BRAF).

May also block the pathway that the protein stimulates for tumor growth, making the tumor shrink.

Chemotherapy Stops or slows cancer cell growth by inhibiting cell division or reproduction

This is not as effective as immunotherapy and so it’s not used as primary treatment with advanced disease.

Surgery Option used when spread limited to one or a few sites. Rarely curative and approach used to relieve pain or discomfort (as in brain or lungs)
Radiation Therapy Shrinks tumors and prevents development of new tumors.
Hospice Suggested when patient deemed to have only 6 months to live.

Support is to reduce suffering and family as well as patient needs.