Targeted therapy for advanced melanoma

Targeted therapy for melanoma uses drugs that attack specific genetic changes (mutations) within cells that allow melanomas to grow and spread, while minimising harm to healthy cells. They are generally taken as tablets (orally).

Targeted therapy is most commonly used for advanced melanoma that has spread to other organs or if the melanoma has come back after treatment.

Types of targeted therapy drugs approved for use for patients with BRAF-mutated advanced melanoma include dabrafenib and trametinib. These drugs aim to block the effects of the BRAF mutation and reduce the growth of the melanoma.

Other drugs may be available through clinical trials – talk to your doctor about whether you are a suitable candidate.

Cancer cells often become resistant to targeted therapy drugs. If this happens, your doctor will change your treatment and may suggest trying another type of targeted therapy.

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Side effects

The side effects of targeted therapy will vary depending on which drug you are given. Common side effects include fever, tiredness, joint aches and pains, nausea, rash and other skin problems, diarrhoea, liver inflammation, and high blood pressure.

Ask your treatment team for advice about dealing with any side effects.

It’s important to discuss any side effects with your doctor immediately, including changes to your mood. If left untreated some symptoms can become life-threatening. For more on this, see targeted therapy and immunotherapy, or call Cancer Council 13 11 20.

Video: What is targeted therapy?

Watch this short video to learn more about targeted and immunotherapy.

This information was last reviewed in January 2017
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