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Chemotherapy for Melanoma

June 10, 2008 - 7:30am
 
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This page discusses the use of chemotherapy for the treatment of melanoma. For a thorough review of chemotherapy, please see the chemotherapy treatment monograph .

Cancer chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Unlike radiation and surgery, which are localized treatments, chemotherapy is a systemic treatment, meaning the drugs travel throughout the whole body. This means chemotherapy can reach cancer cells that may have spread, or metastasized, to other areas.

Chemotherapy may be given for late-stage melanoma, that is, melanoma that has spread to other parts of the body to help relieve symptoms.

Chemotherapy may be given with biologic therapy agents, such as interleukin 2. While these combinations appear to cause tumor shrinkage in a higher percentage of patients than chemotherapy alone, there is little evidence that they prolong survival.

To learn more about biologic therapy, click here .

Limb perfusion is an investigational approach to the delivery of chemotherapy. It is a method of administering chemotherapy agents so they only reach the extremity, an arm or leg, where the cancer was found. The doctor will temporarily block blood flow to the rest of the body while the chemotherapy is given. This method is only considered if the cancer has not spread beyond the extremity.

Dacarbazine is the chemotherapy drug most commonly used for melanoma. It is given intravenously, and may be repeated at three to four-week intervals.

Effectiveness

Dacarbazine, used alone, has produced response rates (tumor shrinkage) in 10% to 20% and complete remissions in a very small percentage of patients with melanoma. These responses are usually not long-lasting.

Sources:

American Cancer Society

Bast, R., et al. Cancer Medicine e5 ., Hamilton, Ontario: B.C. Decker Inc.; 2000

National Cancer Institute

Nissen, D . Mosby's Drug Consult . St. Louis, MO: Mosby, Inc.; 2002.

Rakel, R. Conn's Current Therapy 2002 , 54th ed., St. Louis, MO: W. B. Saunders Company; 2002: 808-809.



Last reviewed February 2003 by Donald Lawrence, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Metastatic Melanoma

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