Memorial Sloan Kettering medical oncologist and melanoma expert Paul Chapman says that about half of all melanoma tumors contain a mutation in a gene called BRAF. A new drug, called Zelboraf (vemurafenib), interferes with the activity of this mutated gene, restricting the ability of tumor cells to grow and survive. Another new drug, Yervoy (ipilimumab), causes the immune system to recognize and attack melanoma cells. These new therapies are the first drugs shown to improve survival for melanoma patients.
According to dermatologic surgeon Kishwer Nehal, people who have been treated for melanoma have a higher risk of developing a second melanoma. The type of surveillance following initial treatment of a melanoma depends on the stage of the primary (first) tumor. A dermatologist should examine patients who were treated for an early-stage melanoma every six to 12 months. Patients with more advanced tumors should also meet with a surgical oncologist, who may order imaging tests to look for signs that the disease has returned or spread.