Yervoy or Ipilimumab

Yervoy or Ipilimumab

New ’biologic’ drug made by Bristol Myers Squibb. This targets melanoma in patients aged above 12 years old. It costs a whopping 24,000 pounds or $36,000 US a month. The mean increased survival time in research was 3 months. 

Approved by the FDA in March 2011: Yervoy is a monoclonal antibody that blocks a molecule known as cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen or CTLA-4. CTLA-4 may play a role in slowing down or turning off the body’s immune system, affecting its ability to fight off cancerous cells. Yervoy may work by allowing the body’s immune system to recognize, target, and attack cells in melanoma tumours. The drug is administered intravenously.

Yervoy is used to treat patients with metastatic melanoma aged 12 years and above. It can also be used in combination with Nivolumab (Opdivo) for advanced melanoma and untreated advanced renal cell carcinoma. 

Approved by

the Medical Board. 

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According to the FDA, the recommended dosage of Yervoy for the treatment of metastatic melanoma is 3mg/kg IV every 3 weeks for 90 minutes. Maximum of 4 doses and all treatments must be completed within 16 weeks including the delays due to potential cause of toxicity.

Advanced renal cell carcinoma (RCC): On the same day, 3 mg/kg IV of Nivolumab (Opdivo) for 30 minutes first and then followed by 30 minutes of 1 mg/kg IV of Yervoy every 3 weeks for 4 doses of the combination.  

Common side effects include: 

Yervoy-  Fatigue, nausea, vomiting, increase in body temperature, insomnia, diarrhea, etc. 

Yervoy with Opdivo - Rash, diarrhea, nausea, arthralgia, fatigue, increase in body temperature and coughing.  


  • Immune-mediated hepatitis, Immune-mediated endocrinopathies, Immune-mediated pneumonitis, Immune-mediated nephritis and Immune-mediated encephalitis. 
  • Damaging the embryo (embryo-fetal toxicity) if the medical drug is used during pregnancy.
Work has also taken place with lung cancer. Readers might go to for more information, under the heading ’Immunotherapy in Lung cancer can we deliver on the promise?’

Other articles that you may find interesting are:

  1. A diet for Chemotherapy
  2. Immunotherapy overview
  3. A to Z Guide to Complementary Therapies

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