Update on Immunotherapeutics in the Management of Metastatic Melanoma

David Bulir, MD, PhD; Steven Liang, BHSc, PhD (Candidate); Maureen O'Malley, MD, FRCPC; Elaine McWhirter, MD, MSc


Skin Therapy Letter. 2019;24(1) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Today, a number of treatment options are now available for metastatic melanoma. Within the last decade, the development of novel immunotherapies for cancer has significantly altered the course of the disease in patients with melanoma. With more patients receiving these potentially life-saving treatments, not only have we learned more about the interplay between the immune system and melanoma, but more importantly, which treatment options are most appropriate given the clinical picture.


Today, malignant melanoma represents a significant disease affecting Canadians. In Canada alone, there were an estimated 7200 new cases of melanoma in 2017; of that, approximately 17% (1250 patients) will die from the disease.[1,2] Melanoma represents the 7th leading cause of all cancer-related deaths in Canada. In 2014, approximately 1050 Canadians died from melanoma (from 6500 cases), and 440 from non-melanoma skin cancers (from 76,100 cases). Although melanoma accounts for less than 1% of all skin cancers, the vast majority of deaths are caused by melanoma.[1,2] According to the Canadian Cancer Society, there has been increasing incidence of 2.1% per year for males and 2.0% per year for females over the last 25 years in Canada.[1,2] Despite this increase in incidence, limited therapies have existed for the treatment of metastatic melanoma until recently.[3]