Q.  Is the standard treatment of melanoma always surgery?

The most effective treatment of melanoma in the early stages is surgical resection. Indeed, if every melanoma could be recognized at the earliest possible stage and removed completely, we could realize a dramatic decrease in melanoma - related deaths. Many patients with stage III disease (spread to draining lymph nodes) can be cured with lymphadenectomy, or removal of the involved lymph nodes. However, when melanoma has metastasized to other parts of the body, systemic treatment is usually required such as immunotherapy or chemotherapy. Since few treatments have been approved by the FDA for melanoma, treatment on a clinical trial of a new agent may be a good option.


Q.  What treatments are approved by the FDA for treatment of melanoma?

Currently there are ten therapies approved: (1) interferon alpha for use after high-risk melanoma has been resected (adjuvant therapy), as well as the following treatments for metastatic melanoma (2) interleukin-2 (IL-2) for treatment of metastatic disease that cannot be removed surgically, (3) dacarbazine, (4) ipilimumab (immunotherapy), (5) vemurafenib (BRAF mutant melanoma), (6) dabrafenib (BRAF mutant melanoma), (7) trametinib (BRAF mutant melanoma), (8) combination of dabrafenib and trametinib (BRAF mutant melanoma), (9) pembrolizumab (immunotherapy), and (10) nivolumab (immunotherapy).


Q.  Where can I find an updated list of melanoma clinical trials?

A database of melanoma clinical trials can be found at National Institutes of Health Clinical Trials. You should also consult with your physician, and can contact your local hospital for clinical trials available in your area.