Targeted therapy for advanced melanoma
New types of drugs known as targeted therapy attack specific genetic mutations within cancer cells, 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 surgery.
Several different targeted therapy drugs have been approved for people who have the BRAF mutation. Drugs are often used together to help block the effects of the BRAF mutation and reduce the growth of the melanoma. Drugs for NRAS and C-KIT mutations may be available through clinical trials – talk to your doctor about whether you are a suitable candidate.
Cancer cells may become resistant to targeted therapy drugs over time. If this happens, your doctor will suggest trying another type of systemic therapy.
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The side effects of targeted therapy will vary depending on which drugs you are given. Common side effects include fever, tiredness, loss of appetite, joint aches and pains, nausea, rash and other skin problems, diarrhoea, and high blood pressure. Ask your treatment team for advice about dealing with any side effects.
|It’s important to let your doctor know immediately of any side effects. If left untreated, some side effects can become serious.|
Video: What is targeted therapy?
A/Prof Victoria Atkinson, Senior Staff Specialist, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Visiting Medical Oncologist, Greenslopes Private Hospital, and The University of Queensland Clinical School of Medicine, QLD; Adjunct Prof John Kelly AM, Consultant Dermatologist, Victorian Melanoma Service, and Department of Medicine at Alfred Health, Monash University, VIC; Dr Alex Chamberlain, Dermatologist, Glenferrie Dermatology, Victorian Melanoma Service and Monash Univeristy, VIC; Alison Button-Sloan, Melanoma Patients Australia; Peter Cagney, Consumer; Prof Brendon J Coventry, Associate Professor of Surgery, The University of Adelaide, Surgical Oncologist, Royal Adelaide Hospital, and Research Director, Australian Melanoma Research Foundation, SA; Dr David Gyorki, Consultant Surgical Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Liz King, Skin Cancer Prevention Manager, Cancer Council NSW; Shannon Jones, SunSmart Health Professionals Coordinator, Cancer Council Victoria; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Prof Richard Scolyer, Senior Staff Specialist, Tissue Pathology and Diagnostic Oncology, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Co-Medical Director, Melanoma Institute Australia and Clinical Professor, The University of Sydney, NSW; Heather Walker, Chair, Cancer Council National Skin Cancer Committee, Cancer Council Australia. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
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Targeted therapy is a type of drug treatment that attacks specific features of cancer cells, known as molecular targets, to stop the cancer growing and spreading. Other names for targeted therapy include biological therapies and molecular targeted therapy.