Targeted Therapy

Medical researchers are developing new ways to treat advanced melanoma with greater success for patients. Targeted therapy is a new, effective treatment option that can shrink cancer cells and tumors and help melanoma patients live longer. 

What Is Targeted Therapy for Melanoma?

Targeted therapy is medication that interferes with the function of abnormal molecules within cancer tumor cells that regulate their growth. When the molecules have certain genetic mutations, they signal the cancer cells to grow and spread.

The goal of targeted therapy is to shut down the mutated molecules to slow the growth of melanoma cells—without harming healthy tissue.

Targeted therapy is systemic, which means that the drugs travel through the bloodstream to all parts of your body. Systemic cancer treatments fight cancers that have spread from their original location to other parts of the body. 

How Does Targeted Therapy Work?

About half of all melanoma cells have genetic mutations in the BRAF (pronounced bee-raf) protein. BRAF and MEK, another protein, are molecules that help regulate cell growth.

A BRAF mutation triggers cells to develop abnormally and divide out of control. Targeted therapy drugs block the activity of the MEK protein and the mutated BRAF protein. In this way, the drugs slow or stop the growth and spread of melanoma.

 Watch Dr. Evan J. Lipson of Johns Hopkins discuss more on how targeted therapy works.

Current Targeted Therapy for Melanoma

Since 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved many targeted therapy drugs. Learn more about targeted therapy drugs in this class, listed newest to oldest:

Melanoma Research

The Melanoma Research Alliance is the largest, non-profit funder of melanoma research worldwide. Since 2007, we have directly funded over $150 million in innovative grants to improve prevention, detection, and treatment of melanoma. We have also leveraged an additional $415 million in outside funds for research. Learn more about our funded research.

Last updated: August, 2023