Treatment goals for metastatic melanoma 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.

Common Treatments for Metastatic Melanoma

  • Immunotherapy: Works with your immune system to slow or stop cancer cell growth. There are two types:

    • Interleukin-2: Stops growth for as long as five years. Given three times a day for five days, two times per month.
    • Ipilimumab: Stimulates the immune system to react against melanomas, given once every three weeks for a 4-dose total.
  • Targeted Therapy (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 six months to live. Support is given to reduce suffering for patient and his or her family.