Oncologist-approved cancer information from the American Society of Clinical Oncology
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Melanoma

This section has been reviewed and approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 9/2013
Latest Research

ON THIS PAGE: You will read about the scientific research being done now to learn more about this type of cancer and how to treat it. To see other pages in this guide, use the colored boxes on the right side of your screen, or click “Next” at the bottom.

Doctors are working to learn more about melanoma, ways to prevent it, how to best treat it, and how to provide the best care to people diagnosed with this disease. The following areas of research may include new options for patients through clinical trials. This section is not meant to be a complete list of new trials as this field is changing rapidly.  Always talk with your doctor about the diagnostic and treatment options best for you.

Enhanced prevention and early detection methods. There is ongoing research on better prevention and early detection strategies for melanoma. Both primary prevention (keeping melanoma from developing) and secondary prevention (early detection of melanoma) are important. One promising area is the screening of people with a high risk of developing melanoma.

Targeted therapy. As discussed in the Treatment Options section, targeted therapy is a treatment that targets specific genes or proteins. It is a major area of research for melanoma. Ongoing research has identified a number of molecular pathways and activated or mutated genes in melanoma. This includes the most commonly mutated gene BRAF as well as activation of the MAP kinase pathway. Ongoing laboratory and clinical research confirms the importance of these genes and pathways in melanoma.

Clinical trials are testing new drugs to inhibit the MAP kinase pathway and other pathways that melanoma might use to grow and spread. Strategies to prevent the melanoma from becoming resistant to treatment are also being tested such as using combinations of drugs or exploring novel drug administration schedules   (see the Treatment Options section).

Immunotherapy. Immunotherapy, which boosts the immune system to fight cancer, is also a major focus in melanoma research. Ongoing clinical trials are evaluating several different approaches, including those discussed in the Treatment Options section, as well as the combination of immunotherapy with chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and other types of immunotherapy.

Melanoma peptide vaccines are being intensely evaluated in clinical trials for patients with both localized and advanced melanoma. Research has shown that vaccination can cause the immune system to fight melanoma, even in advanced disease, but these therapies are still considered experimental. The vaccines are made using certain proteins found only on a melanoma tumor and are given as an injection; the person’s immune system then recognizes the proteins and destroys melanoma cancer cells. Learn more about vaccines.

Another type of experimental immunotherapy involves altering the patient’s lymphocytes (white blood cells) in the laboratory to increase their ability to fight the tumor. The changed cells are given back to the patient, often in combination with chemotherapy. These types of treatments are known as adoptive cell transfer (ACT).

Supportive care. Clinical trials are underway to find better ways of reducing symptoms and side effects of current melanoma treatments in order to improve patients’ comfort and quality of life.

Looking for More about the Latest Research?

If you would like additional information about the latest areas of research regarding melanoma, explore these related items that take you outside of this guide:

To continue reading this guide, choose “Next” (below, right) to see a section about coping with the side effects of the disease or its treatment. Or, use the colored boxes located on the right side of your screen to visit any section.

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