Treatment Options and Strategies

Doctor Using Digital Tablet

Depending on the particular stage of your melanoma diagnosis, there may be several treatment options available to you. Because each case is unique, your doctor will want to review your full pathology report and medical history when discussing treatment in order to determine the best course of action. If you have been recently diagnosed with 

melanoma, learning about treatment options is of the utmost importance. There are many centers around the United States that specialize in diagnosing and treating melanoma.


Not sure where to go? Visit the Melanoma Research Foundation’s Treatment Center Finder or take advantage of our Find a Dermatologist page to help find the right place for you.

Types of Treatment

These are examples of the types of treatment available for melanoma. Based on your personal history, pathology report, and stage at diagnosis, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following:​​


Surgery is the mainstay of therapy for early stage melanoma and for the resection of an isolated metastatic melanoma site. There are several different types of surgeries that are regularly performed to treat melanoma.

Clinical Trials

Clinical Trials are research studies to test promising new or experimental cancer treatments. There are hundreds of clinical trials happening at any given time, and most experts agree that for a late-stage diagnosis, clinical trials are the best treatment option. You can also visit the MRF's Clinical Trial Finder to learn about clinical trials that are currently available.


Immunotherapy is a type of systemic therapy used in the treatment of melanoma at high risk for recurrence and metastases. The following immunotherapies are approved by the FDA for the treatment of melanoma: Imlygic (T-VEC), Yervoy + Opdivo,  Opdivo (nivolumab),  Keytruda (pembrolizumab), Yervoy (ipilimumab), Interleukin-2 (IL-2) and Interferon alpha 2-b.

Targeted Therapy

A type of therapy where drugs “target” the abnormal aspects of tumor cells without harming normal cells. Several targeted therapies have been approved for use in treating various cancers, and this approach is now being evaluated in melanoma. The following targeted therapies are approved by the FDA for the treatment of melanoma that is positive for the BRAF mutation: Zelboraf + Cotellic (Cobimetinib) , Tafinlar + Mekinist, Tafinlar (dabrafenib), Mekinist (trametinib) and Zelboraf (vemurafenib). 


Chemotherapy is a type of systemic therapy intended to destroy melanoma cells throughout the body. Chemotherapy has shown limited success in the treatment of melanoma. Dacarbazine (DTIC) is FDA-approved for Stage IV (metastatic) melanoma.


Survival rates tell you what portion of people with the same type and stage of cancer are still alive a certain amount of time (usually 5 or 10 years) after they were diagnosed. The survival rate is the percentage of people who live at least a certain amount of time after being diagnosed with cancer. For example, the 5-year survival rate for Stage IIA melanoma is around 81%, this means that about 81% of patients with this tumor stage survive 5 year or longer after their initial diagnosis.


Survival rates do not always tell the whole story as they are often based on previous outcomes of large number of people who had the disease, but every patients’ case is different. It’s important to remember that survival rates are based on the cancer stage when it was first diagnosed, and not ones that have returned. They can’t tell you how long you will live, but they may help give you a better understanding about how likely it is that your treatment will be 

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successful. Some people will want to know the survival rates for their cancer, and some people won’t. If you don’t want to know, you don’t have to. 

The above survival rate tables are based on nearly 60,000 patients who were part of the 2008 American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) Melanoma Staging Database.