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 melanoma with involvement of lymph nodes or patients with metastatic disease who have undergone complete resection. 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 the following medications as adjuvant therapy for high-risk melanoma:

Melanoma Research

Since its founding in 2007, the Melanoma Research Alliance has awarded over $100 million to research aimed at better preventing, diagnosing and treating melanoma. Learn more about our funded research

Last Updated: February 2019
Last reviewed: May 2016

Reviewers: John Kirkwood, Lynn Schuchter, Louise Perkins