Immunotherapy and Melanoma

Immunotherapy gets the immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. Immunotherapy is a good treatment option for many people with melanoma.

Immunotherapy works well for some patients, but it doesn't work in everyone. Researchers are trying to learn why some tumors respond and others do not.

Immunotherapy for Stage 3 (III) Melanoma

People with Stage III melanoma often have surgery to remove the melanoma. Lymph nodes near the cancer might also be removed to look for cancer cells. Your doctors will use the results to decide what treatment options are best for you. Sometimes, many lymph nodes near the tumor are removed (called a "lymph node dissection"). Other times, only one or a few lymph nodes are removed (called "sentinel lymph nodes"). In some cases, the lymph nodes do not need to be removed.

After surgery, your doctor may recommend immunotherapy to reduce the risk of your cancer coming back.

Sometimes, the surgeon cannot remove all of the cancer. This type of cancer is called "unresectable." These cancers are treated more like Stage 4 (IV) melanoma.

Immunotherapy for Stage 4 (IV) Melanoma

Immunotherapy may be the first treatment for Stage 4 (IV) melanoma. Some patients are treated with approved immunotherapy drugs. Others are treated with immunotherapy drugs being studied in clinical trials.


Table showing immunotherapy options for melanoma

View our quick guide about immunotherapy side effects.

If you are on immunotherapy, it is important to let your health care team know immediately if you notice any change in side effects or symptoms. Most side effects can be managed if they are treated early.

You can read more about immunotherapy side effects or watch a video about side effects in the Immunotherapy Side Effects section of our website.