NCCN Guidelines for Patients® | Melanoma - page 41

NCCN Guidelines for Patients
Melanoma, Version 1.2014
Overview melanoma treatments Treatment with drugs
Chemotherapy is a type of drug commonly used to
treat cancer. Many people refer to this treatment as
“chemo.” Chemotherapy drugs kill fast-growing cells,
including cancer cells and normal cells. When only
one drug is used, it is called a single agent. However,
different types of chemotherapy drugs attack cancer
cells in different ways. Therefore, more than one drug
is often used. A combination regimen is the use of two
or more chemotherapy drugs.
Chemotherapy can be used as systemic therapy or
regional therapy for melanoma. For systemic therapy,
the drug can be given as a pill that is swallowed. Or, it
can be given as a liquid that is injected into a vein or
under the skin with a needle. When given as systemic
therapy, the drugs travel in the bloodstream to treat
cancer throughout the body. For regional therapy, the
drug is given as an injection into a limb (arm or leg)
in a way that it does not reach or affect the rest of the
body. This is called isolated limb infusion/perfusion.
The chemotherapy drug melphalan is given this way
for melanoma.
Chart 5
lists the chemotherapy drugs
used for melanoma.
Chemotherapy is given in cycles of treatment days
followed by days of rest. These cycles vary in length
depending on which drugs are used. Usually, the
cycles are 14, 21, or 28 days long. These cycles
give the body a chance to recover before the next
treatment. Thus, a regimen of 3 to 6 months has rest
periods between treatments. A regimen is a treatment
plan that specifies the dosage, schedule, and length
of treatment. 
Chart 5. Chemotherapy drugs for melanoma
Generic name
Brand name (sold as)
Route given
Systemic therapy
Liquid injected into a vein
Liquid injected into a vein
Liquid injected into a vein
Liquid injected into a vein
Liquid injected into a vein
Pill that is swallowed or liquid injected into a vein
Velban, Velsar
Liquid injected into a vein
Regional therapy
Isolated limb infusion/perfusion
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