Immunotherapy for skin cancer
Immunotherapy, which is designed to help the immune system identify and attack cancer cells, may be an option to treat Merkel cell carcinoma and melanoma.
Checkpoint inhibitors are immunotherapy drugs that work by targeting signaling proteins that allow cancer cells to disguise themselves as healthy cells. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the checkpoint inhibitor drug avelumab (Bavencio®) to treat Merkel cell carcinoma and ipilimumab (Yervoy®), pembrolizumab (Keytruda®) and nivolumab (Opdivo®) to treat melanoma.
Cytokines are immunotherapy drugs that use molecules to help regulate immune activity. The drugs alpha-interferon (IFN-alpha) and interleukin-2 (IL-2) are cytokines that may be used to treat some cases of advanced melanoma. These drugs stimulate the rapid growth and activity of immune cells so that they quickly attack the cancer cells.
Immunotherapy may not be recommended for all patients. Because they stimulate the immune system, immunotherapy treatments may also lead to side effects, such as skin rashes or gastrointestinal problems.
Learn more about immunotherapy for melanoma