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DTIC (dacarbazine)


Purpose: DTIC is given to shrink or slow the growth of melanoma tumors that have spread throughout the body.


How it works: DTIC is a chemotherapy drug, specifically an alkylating agent. It interferes with the growth of cancer cells. Currently, DTIC is the only FDA approved chemotherapy drug for the treatment of metastatic melanoma.


Which patients: Patients with Stage IV melanoma


How it is given: DTIC is given intravenously for 10 days. The treatment may be repeated every 4 weeks. Alternatively, the drug can be given at an accelerated dose for 5 days, with the treatment repeated every 3 weeks.


Effectiveness: DTIC response rates are in the 6% to 20% range, and the response lasts about 6-8 months. DTIC has not been shown to improve progression-free or overall survival.


Side effects: Side effects depend on the individual and the dose used but can include the following:


  • Allergic reactions, including shortness of breath, throat closing, swelling of lips, face, or tongue, or hives
  • Decreased bone marrow function and blood problems (extreme fatigue, easy bruising or bleeding, black, bloody or tarry stools, or fever, chills, or signs of infection)
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or loss of appetite
  • Temporary hair loss
  • Flu-like symptoms including fever, muscle and joint pain.


DTIC has also been associated with the development of other cancers (secondary malignancy). It also can harm the liver.

Serrone L, Zeuli M, Sega FM, Cognetti F. Dacarbazine-Based Chemotherapy for Metastatic Melanoma: Thirty-Year Experience Overview. J Exp Clin Cancer Res. 2000;19(1):21-34.