Background: Systemic agents are used in melanoma for adjuvant therapy and to treat metastatic disease. Currently, interferon-α is the only agent approved for adjuvant therapy. Six drugs are FDA approved for metastatic disease: dacarbazine, interleukin-2 (IL-2), vemurafenib, ipilimumab, dabrafenib, and trametinib. Vemurafenib and ipilimumab were approved in 2011, whereas dabrafenib and trametinib were approved in 2013.
Objective: This review will update the practicing dermatologist on the differences in efficacy, adverse events, and cost of systemic therapies available for the treatment of melanoma.
Materials and methods: This article is a review of the current literature on systemic therapies for advanced melanoma. Key search words included "advanced melanoma," "systemic therapy," and "adjuvant therapy" with particular focus on the past 20 years.
Results: Before 2011, dacarbazine and IL-2 were the only FDA approved therapies for metastatic melanoma, and IFN-α is the only approved agent for adjuvant therapy. The new agents vemurafenib, ipilimumab, dabrafenib, and trametinib are the first to have improved overall survival in Phase III studies in comparison with other systemic therapies.
Conclusion: Despite new developments, there remains a significant need for better therapies with improved long-term efficacy and decreased toxicity.