Targeted therapy for advanced melanoma
New types of drugs known as targeted therapy attack specific genetic mutations within cancer cells, while trying to limit harm to healthy cells. They are generally taken as tablets (orally) once or twice a day, often for many months or even years.
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Several targeted therapy drugs are used for melanoma with the BRAF mutation. Different drugs may be given together to help reduce the growth of the melanoma and minimise side effects – for example, dabrafenib is often used with trametinib. Drugs for NRAS and C-KIT mutations may be available through clinical trials – talk to your doctor about whether one of these trials is right for you.
Cancer cells can become resistant to targeted therapy drugs over time. If this happens, your doctor may suggest trying another targeted therapy drug or another type of treatment.
The side effects of targeted therapy will vary depending on which drugs you are given. Common side effects include fever, tiredness, joint pain, rash and other skin problems, loss of appetite, nausea and diarrhoea. Ask your treatment team for advice about dealing with any side effects.
For more on this, see our general section on Targeted therapy.
Video: What is targeted therapy?
Listen to our podcasts on New Cancer Treatments – Immunotherapy and Targeted Therapy and Making Treatment Decisions
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
A/Prof Robyn Saw, Surgical Oncologist, Melanoma Institute Australia, The University of Sydney and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, NSW; Craig Brewer, Consumer; Prof Bryan Burmeister, Radiation Oncologist, GenesisCare Fraser Coast and Hervey Bay Hospital, QLD; Tamara Dawson, Consumer, Melanoma & Skin Cancer Advocacy Network; Prof Georgina Long, Co-Medical Director, Melanoma Institute Australia, and Chair, Melanoma Medical Oncology and Translational Research, Melanoma Institute Australia, The University of Sydney and Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW; A/Prof Alexander Menzies, Medical Oncologist, Melanoma Institute Australia, The University of Sydney, Royal North Shore and Mater Hospitals, NSW; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Paige Preston, Chair, Cancer Council’s National Skin Cancer Committee, Cancer Council Australia; Prof H Peter Soyer, Chair in Dermatology and Director, Dermatology Research Centre, The University of Queensland Diamantina Institute, and Director, Dermatology Department, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD; Julie Teraci, Clinical Nurse Consultant and Coordinator, WA Kirkbride Melanoma Advisory Service, WA.
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