Cutaneous melanoma: available therapy for metastatic disease

Dermatol Ther. Jan-Feb 2006;19(1):19-25. doi: 10.1111/j.1529-8019.2005.00052.x.


Survival of melanoma varies widely by stage, from a potentially highly curable disease when detected in early stages, to a disease with dismal prognosis when it reaches advanced inoperable stages. Stage IV melanoma defines distant metastasis and continues to comprise an ominous prognosis, with a median survival of 6-9 months. Currently, there is no therapeutic agent known to prolong survival in patients with metastatic melanoma. Therapeutic approaches studied in metastatic melanoma include chemotherapy, biochemotherapy, nonspecific immune adjuvants, cancer-specific vaccines, cytokines, monoclonal antibodies, and specific immunostimulants. Chemotherapy with single-agent dacarbazine is the only United States Food and Drug Administration (US-FDA)-approved chemotherapy agent for metastatic melanoma. Immunological approaches have yielded the only newly US-FDA-approved agent for metastatic disease in 30 years, high-dose bolus IL-2, based on durable responses in some patients with metastatic melanoma, but with associated high toxicity rate and cost. A number of novel therapeutic agents are undergoing active clinical investigation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Cancer Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Factors / therapeutic use
  • Interleukin-2 / administration & dosage
  • Male
  • Melanoma / drug therapy*
  • Melanoma / mortality*
  • Melanoma / pathology
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness / pathology
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Prognosis
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk Assessment
  • Salvage Therapy*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Skin Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Skin Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology
  • Survival Analysis
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Cancer Vaccines
  • Immunologic Factors
  • Interleukin-2