Biological therapy, often referred to as immunotherapy, is a treatment that uses the body’s immune system to fight cancer or reduce the side effects of cancer treatment. For melanoma, substances called cytokines, or proteins that boost the immune system, are given intravenously. The body produces cytokines normally in small amounts in response to infections and other diseases. Using modern laboratory techniques, scientists can produce cytokines in large amounts.
In some cases, biological therapy given after surgery can help prevent melanoma from recurring. For patients with metastatic melanoma — melanoma that has spread to other parts of the body — or who have a high risk of recurrence, further biological therapy may be recommended after surgery. Biological therapy is often used in combination with another form of cancer therapy, such as chemotherapy. Combination therapy may be more effective in treating melanoma. Research shows that biological therapy can help lessen the side effects of other therapies.