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Medications for Melanoma

  • Michael Jubinville, MPH
Publication Type:

Condition InDepth

Medications for Melanoma

Removing the tumor with surgery is the main treatment for melanoma. Medicines are used:

  • If surgery cannot be done
  • When cancer has spread to other places in the body

The types used are:


Immunotherapy changes how the immune system works so it can better fight cancer. The medicines can:

  • Slow the growth of cancer
  • Help the immune system find cancer cells
  • Block certain proteins that allow cancer cells to grow
  • Use a certain virus or vaccine to boost the body's immune system and shrink tumors

Some problems are chills, fever, aches, depression, skin reactions, and feeling tired.

Targeted Therapy

BRAF is a mutation found in the genes. It is found in half of melanomas. This gene makes proteins that speed up the growth of cancer cells. Targeted therapy medicines seek out the cells with BRAF and destroys them. These will not cure late stage melanoma, but they can help you live longer.

Medicines are:

  • Vemurafenib
  • Dabrafenib
  • Trametinib
  • Cobimetinib

Some problems are joint pain, feeling tired, hair loss, rash, itching, sensitivity to the sun, and nausea.


  • Immunotherapy for melanoma skin cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/melanoma-skin-cancer/treating/immunotherapy.html. Updated May 20, 2016. Accessed May 8, 2019.
  • Melanoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115302/Melanoma. Updated March 26, 2019. Accessed May 8, 2019.
  • Melanoma. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dermatologic-disorders/cancers-of-the-skin/melanoma. Updated March 2019. Accessed May 8, 2019.
  • Melanoma: Diagnosis and treatment. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/melanoma#treatment. Accessed May 8, 2019.
  • Targeted therapy for melanoma skin cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/melanoma-skin-cancer/treating/targeted-therapy.html. Updated June 28, 2016. Accessed May 8, 2019.
  • Treatment options by stage. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/skin/patient/melanoma-treatment-pdq#section/_165. Updated May 1, 2019. Accessed May 8, 2019.


  • Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated:

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.