NCCN Guidelines for Patients® | Melanoma - page 39

NCCN Guidelines for Patients
: Melanoma
Version 1.2013
Part 4: Overview of melanoma treatments
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Immune cells:
Cells that
are part of the body’s
natural defense against
infection and disease
Local treatment:
Treatment that affects cells
in one small, specific part
of the body only, such as
the tumor and nearby area
cancer cells that have
spread from the first tumor
Side effect:
An unplanned
physical or emotional
response to treatment
Systemic treatment:
Drugs used to treat cancer
cells throughout the body
Table 3. Immunotherapy drugs for melanoma
Generic name
Brand name
Route given
Systemic treatment
Interferon alfa
Liquid injected into a vein or
under the skin
Peginterferon alfa-2b Sylatron
Liquid injected into a vein or
under the skin
Liquid injected into a vein
Liquid injected into a vein
Local treatment
Bacillus Calmette-Guérin None
Liquid injected into the tumor
Interferon alfa
Liquid injected into the tumor
, Zyclara
Cream applied to the surface of
the tumor
Two common immunotherapy drugs used as systemic treatment for melanoma
are interferon alfa and interleukin-2. They are molecules, called cytokines,
that stimulate immune cells. Cytokines exist naturally in your body as part of
the immune system. They can also be made in the lab and be used as drugs
to treat melanoma. When used as a treatment, cytokines are given in much
higher amounts than what the body naturally makes. High doses of these drugs
may cause severe side effects. Doctors don’t completely agree about using
interferon-alfa as adjuvant treatment. This is because its benefits may not
clearly outweigh the side effects. Talk with your doctor if you have any concerns
about taking interferon-alfa.
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