Until recently, distant metastatic melanoma was considered refractory to systemic therapy. A better understanding of the interactions between tumors and the immune system and the mechanisms of regulation of T-cells led to the development of immune checkpoint inhibitors. This review summarizes the current novel data on the treatment of metastatic melanoma with anti-programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) antibodies and anti-PD-1-based combination regimens, including clinical trials presented at major conference meetings. Immune checkpoint inhibitors, in particular anti-PD-1 antibodies such as pembrolizumab and nivolumab and the combination of nivolumab with the anti-cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated protein 4 (CTLA-4) antibody ipilimumab can achieve long-term survival for patients with metastatic melanoma. The anti-PD-1 antibodies nivolumab and pembrolizumab were also approved for adjuvant treatment of patients with resected metastatic melanoma. Anti-PD-1 antibodies appear to be well tolerated, and toxicity is manageable. Nivolumab combined with ipilimumab achieves a 5 year survival rate of more than 50% but at a cost of high toxicity. Ongoing clinical trials investigate novel immunotherapy combinations and strategies (e.g., Talimogene laherparepvec (T-VEC), Bempegaldesleukin (BEMPEG), incorporation or sequencing of targeted therapy, incorporation or sequencing of radiotherapy), and focus on poor prognosis groups (e.g., high tumor burden/LDH levels, anti-PD-1 refractory melanoma, and brain metastases).
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