The last 12 months have seen the beginning of a new era in the treatment options available for patients with metastatic cutaneous melanoma, a disease previously characterised by its poor prognosis and limited treatment options. Two mechanistically diverse agents have now demonstrated an overall survival benefit in different patient subgroups and further clinical trials are ongoing with emerging single agents and novel combinations. The first agent to demonstrate an overall survival benefit was the CTLA-4 antibody, ipilimumab, illustrating the importance of the immune system and immunomodulation in melanoma tumorigenesis. The second group of agents to show a survival benefit were the selective BRAF inhibitors, vemurafenib and GSK2118436, in patients who are BRAF V600 mutation positive. In addition, in the same BRAF mutant patient population, MEK inhibitors also show promising results and are currently under investigation in later stage trials. Although ipilimumab, BRAF and MEK inhibitors are just passing through the clinical trials arena, their use will rapidly become more widespread. Along with their significant clinical benefits, there are also unique adverse events related to these agents. Although the majority are mild and can be managed with supportive treatment, some toxicities require special management strategies. We outline up-to-date clinical development and management guidelines for ipilimumab, as well as the BRAF and MEK inhibitors.
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