These drugs are designed to act against specific proteins in the tumor cells, thereby helping block the cell-to-cell signals that promote cell division.
They may be given to reduce the size of the cancer and control cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.
- Immunotherapy – ipilimumab
Ipilimumab belongs to a group of cancer-fighting drugs known as immunomodulatory monoclonal antibodies; these drugs cause the immune system to attack the cancer cells. Ipilimumab helps reduce or slow the growth of advanced melanoma.
It is given intravenously for 90 minutes once every three weeks until four treatments have been administered.
Side effects include fatigue, diarrhea, skin rashes, and itchiness. Ipilimumab can cause inflammation in different parts of the body such as the intestines, liver, skin, and eyes. This can sometimes cause more severe side effects like persistent diarrhea, changes in the way the liver functions, skin rashes, blisters affecting several parts of the body, inflammation of the pituitary gland, and blurriness or double vision.
It is important to let your doctor know immediately if any of these happen; they may give you steroids in tablet form to help reduce the swelling. Alternatively, your dose of the drug may be reduced.
Vemurafenib is a targeted therapy drug that slows the growth of advanced melanoma. It only works in patients who have a specific change (mutation) in a gene called the BRAF gene, which helps regulate a protein involved in growth. Vemurafenib is not effective in patients who do not have this mutation.
It is given in tablet form and is taken daily.
The most common side effects include skin rash, increased sensitivity to sunlight, joint pain, hair loss, and fatigue.
Dabrafenib is a targeted therapy drug that is also used in patients who have tested positive as carriers of the BRAF gene. This drug slows the growth of advanced melanoma.
It is given orally in tablet form and is taken twice daily—two hours before meals or at least one hour afterward.
The most common side effects include changes to the skin, fever, headache, feeling unwell, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and fatigue.