Skin Cancer: Metastatic Melanoma Chemo Drugs

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Chemotherapy Drug Options for Metastatic Melanoma

Metastatic melanoma is often difficult to treat. At this stage, the cancer has metastasized and moved to other organs, including the lymph nodes. When the cancer cannot be removed from each individual organ, an aggressive form of treatment, such as chemotherapy, is used in an attempt to treat it.

Metastatic Melanoma Chemo Drugs

An injectable chemotherapy drug known as Dacarbazine (DTIC) is often used in conjunction with two sets of combination drugs: vinblastine and cisplatin or tamoxifen and carmustin (BCNU). While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only endorsed Dacarbazine as an acceptable chemotherapy treatment for metastatic melanoma, other chemotherapeutic agents have shown promise.

Temozolomide, a generic form of the oral medication Temodar, is typically used in the treatment of brain cancer; however, it has also been found effective in treating metastatic melanoma. This FDA-approved chemotherapeutic drug is strongly related to Dacarbazine. While it can be taken alone, it is most effective when combined with chemotherapy radiation treatment.

Something new on the chemotherapy treatment front are anti-angiogenic drugs, such as angiostatin, endostatin, and thalidomide. Anti-angiogenics prohibit additional blood vessel formation and, thus, prevent cancer cells from flourishing due to malnourishment. At this time, studies are being conducted to test the effectiveness of such drugs; however, initial reports have found that both endostatin and angiostatin have created a hostile environment to melanoma at some level.

Patients whose leg or arm is affected by melanoma metastases may undergo the isolated limb perfusion method. Whole body toxicity is eliminated with this procedure because chemotherapy is directly pushed into the blood of the arm or leg. The drug melphalan is often used on its own or with other drugs in the isolated limp perfusion method.

Other Potential Metastatic Melanoma Treatment Options

Clinical studies are in place right now for further metastatic melanoma treatment, such as immunotherapy and biochemotherapy. Melanoma vaccines are on the horizon and are considered to be a form of immunotherapy. These vaccines have been given to those with Stage III or IV melanoma. Its main purpose is “to stimulate the immune system so that it reacts more strongly against a patient’s melanoma cells, destroying the cancer or slowing the progression,” according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.[1]

Biochemotherapy is an additional treatment alternative. This therapeutic treatment combines chemotherapy with interferon and/or interleukin-2.[2] Doctors are finding that a combination of temozolomide and interferon have caused tumor shrinkage. Unfortunately, to date, it has not prolonged patients’ lives.


The information provided herein is for educational purposes only and should not take the place of a physical examination and proper diagnosis from a qualified health care provider.


[1] Skin Cancer Foundation website. Melanoma – Adjuvant (Additional) Treatments. Accessed November 22, 2010.

[2] American Cancer Society website. Treatment of Melanoma by Stage. Accessed November 22, 2010.