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Immunotherapy for Melanoma

If you have melanoma, immunotherapy may be recommended as part of your treatment. With this therapy, cytokines are used to help the body's defenses fight cancer or reduce side effects caused by treatments such as chemotherapy. Potential side effects include flu-like symptoms, weakness, and loss of appetite. Although the side effects can be severe, they generally go away after the immunotherapy is complete.

An Introduction to Immunotherapy for Melanoma

Immunotherapy for melanoma (also called biological therapy) is a form of treatment that uses the body's immune system, either directly or indirectly, to fight cancer or to reduce side effects caused by some cancer treatments.
This type of immunotherapy works by using substances called cytokines. The body normally produces cytokines in small amounts in response to infections and other diseases. However, by using modern laboratory techniques, scientists can produce cytokines in large amounts.

When Is This Type of Therapy Recommended?

In some people with melanoma, immunotherapy given after surgery can help prevent the disease from recurring. For patients with metastatic melanoma or a high risk of recurrence, interferon alpha and interleukin-2 (also called IL-2 or aldesleukin) may be recommended after surgery.
(Click Surgery for Melanoma for more information about this type of melanoma treatment.)

Side Effects of Immunotherapy

The side effects of melanoma immunotherapy vary with the type of treatment. Common side effects include:
  • Flu-like symptoms, such as chills, fever, and muscle aches
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Skin rash.
Side effects of immunotherapy can be severe, but they tend to go away after treatment stops.
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Melanoma Treatments

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