Adjuvant Therapy

Patients who receive treatment for melanoma may have a high risk of the melanoma coming back - even after surgery. Physicians and oncologists have new ways to help delay or prevent the recurrence of melanoma through adjuvant therapy.

What is Adjuvant Therapy for Melanoma?

Adjuvant cancer therapy is additional treatment given after the primary treatment for melanoma, usually surgery. The goal of adjuvant therapy is to reduce the risk of melanoma returning. 

Physicians often recommend adjuvant therapy for patients with high-risk melanoma. High-risk melanoma is usually defined as melanoma that is deeper or thicker (more than 4 mm thick) at the primary site or involves nearby lymph nodes. These patients have a high risk of recurrence because some melanoma cells can remain in your body, even if the surgery successfully removed the visible melanoma tumors. 

Watch Dr. Evan J. Lipson of Johns Hopkins Medicine discuss adjuvant therapy.

How Does Adjuvant Therapy Work?

Patients usually receive adjuvant therapy after primary treatment with surgery. Adjuvant therapy may reduce the risk of melanoma recurring.

Approved Adjuvant Therapy for Melanoma

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two medications as adjuvant therapy for high-risk melanoma:

Researchers are continuing to study a variety of other treatments for initial and adjuvant therapy for melanoma. Learn more about therapies in development:

Melanoma Research

Since its founding in 2007, the Melanoma Research Alliance has awarded over $79 million to research aimed at better preventing, diagnosing and treating melanoma. Learn more about our funded research

Last reviewed: May 2016

Reviewers: John Kirkwood, Lynn Schuchter, Louise Perkins