Melanoma in its later stages has a high capacity for spreading to other parts and organs in the body. The Stage IV melanoma, also known as metastatic melanoma, is when the harmful cells spread via the lymph nodes to distant sites in the body. The signs and symptoms of this disease depend on the organ system that the tumor has grown in. The condition can initially be painless and symptom-free, gradually leading to swollen lymph glands or a string of nodules in the skin. This condition, in most cases, cannot be cured but the recent therapies have increased survival rates greatly. Out of the many treatments for metastatic melanoma, the systemic therapy is the mainstay.
When melanoma, in its later stage, cannot be removed with surgery, the systemic treatment for metastatic melanoma comes to the rescue. However, the treatment recommendation is subject to a number of factors, including the person’s age and overall health, the pace at which the disease is spreading, location and number of metastases, the presence of specific genetic mutations in the tumor, and preferences of the patient. Systemic therapies commonly used as treatments for metastatic melanoma can be broadly classified into three groups: cytotoxic chemotherapy, molecular targeted therapy, and immunotherapy.
Having been used over three decades now, cytotoxic chemotherapy treats metastatic melanoma. Chemotherapeutic agents with modest antitumor efficacy work directly against metastatic melanoma cells. Immunotherapy is another systemic therapy that is used as a treatment for metastatic melanoma. The treatment is quite effective in treating this condition wherein risk of recurrence and metastases is high. The immunotherapies that the FDA has approved for treating melanoma include Imlygic (T-VEC), Opdivo (nivolumab), Keytruda (pembrolizumab), Yervoy + Opdivo, Yervoy (ipilimumab), Interleukin-2 (IL-2), and Interferon alpha 2-b.
Immunotherapy is all about making the body’s immune system capable of fighting the tumor. As melanoma is susceptible to immune therapeutic approaches, immunotherapy serves as a helpful treatment for metastatic melanoma. Several other immunotherapy approaches are in development that is going to be of great help in treating metastatic melanoma soon.