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Targeted therapy for melanoma

What is targeted therapy?

Targeted therapy blocks the growth and spread of cancer by preventing cancer cells from dividing or destroying them directly.

While standard chemotherapy affects all cells in the body, targeted therapy directs drugs or other specially created substances (e.g., man-made immune system proteins) to attack cancer cells. The goal of targeted therapy is to interfere with specific molecules involved in tumor growth to block the growth and spread of the disease.

Because targeted therapy specifically seeks out cancer cells, it can avoid harm to healthy cells. In turn, targeted therapy may have fewer side effects than standard chemotherapy.

Targeted therapy for melanoma

Vemurafenib (ZelborafTM) is the first targeted therapy to be approved for use in metastatic melanoma cancer. It targets a specific mutated form of a protein called BRAF, which is involved in the growth and survival of melanoma cells.

As with any therapy, vemurafenib can be associated with potentially serious side effects. One side effect reported in patients treated with this agent was the development of another form of skin cancer, cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma. This type of skin cancer rarely spreads to other parts of the body, but if you do receive treatment with vemurafenib, your doctor will ask you to watch for skin changes, such as a new wart, a sore that doesn’t heal or a change in an existing mole. You should also avoid the sun.

Your CTCA doctors may want to test your melanoma cancer for the presence of the BRAF mutation. If it is positive, they may discuss whether treatment with vemurafenib is right for you.

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