Yervoy is a brand-name prescription medication. It’s FDA-approved to treat certain forms of the following cancers in adults:

Yervoy is also used to treat certain forms of the following cancers in children ages 12 years and older:

  • melanoma
  • colorectal cancer

Yervoy is typically used in combination with the drug nivolumab (Opdivo), except when treating melanoma. When used to treat melanoma, Yervoy is used alone.

Yervoy is approved to treat the cancers mentioned above in certain situations. For more information about how this drug is used, see the “Yervoy uses” section below.

Drug details

The active drug in Yervoy is ipilimumab. Yervoy is a type of drug called a monoclonal antibody, which is made from immune system cells. Yervoy is an immunotherapy treatment for cancer. Immunotherapy helps your immune system attack cancer.

Yervoy comes as a liquid solution in single-dose vials. The drug is administered by intravenous (IV) infusion, which is an injection into a vein that’s given over a period of time.

Yervoy infusions may last for about 30 or 90 minutes, depending on the type of cancer being treated. You’ll typically have Yervoy infusions once every few weeks. A healthcare provider will give you these infusions at your doctor’s office, a hospital, or an infusion center.

FDA approval

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first approved Yervoy for use in 2011. In 2018, the FDA granted the drug accelerated approval to treat a type of liver cancer called hepatocellular carcinoma. Then, in 2020, the FDA granted Yervoy accelerated approval to treat certain forms of colorectal cancer.

Accelerated approval is based on information from early clinical trials. The FDA’s decision for full approval will be made after additional clinical trials have been completed.

The FDA usually approves drugs once comprehensive studies have been done. But certain medications are approved before all the studies have been completed. Yervoy is one such drug. The FDA may give accelerated approval to medications that treat conditions that have few effective treatments available.

For liver and colorectal cancer, there aren’t a lot of successful treatment choices for people who meet the criteria to take Yervoy. For details on the criteria, see the “Yervoy uses” section below.

Effectiveness

For information about the effectiveness of Yervoy, see the “Yervoy uses” section below.

Yervoy is available only as a brand-name medication. This drug is a biologic that’s not currently available in generic or biosimilar form.

A biologic is a drug that’s made using living cells. Other drugs are made using chemicals. It’s possible to make exact copies of brand-name chemical drugs. These are called generics. Generics usually cost less than brand-name drugs.

It’s not possible to make exact copies of biologics. But it’s possible to make drugs that are similar to brand-name biologic drugs. These are called biosimilars. Like generics, biosimilars usually cost less than brand-name biologic drugs.

The active drug in Yervoy is ipilimumab.

Yervoy is an immunotherapy drug for cancer. Immunotherapy helps your immune system attack cancer. Other drugs are available that can treat the same types of cancer as Yervoy. Some may be a better fit for you than others. If you’re interested in finding an alternative to Yervoy, talk with your doctor. They can tell you about other medications that may work well for you.

Note: Some of the drugs listed here are used off-label to treat these specific conditions. Off-label drug use means using a drug for a purpose other than what it’s been approved for by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Alternatives for melanoma

Examples of other drugs that may be used to treat melanoma include:

  • other immunotherapy drugs, such as:
  • targeted therapy drugs, such as:
    • binimetinib (Mektovi)
    • cobimetinib (Cotellic)
    • dabrafenib (Tafinlar)
    • encorafenib (Braftovi)
    • trametinib (Mekinist)
    • vemurafenib (Zelboraf)
  • talimogene laherparepvec (Imlygic)

Alternatives for kidney cancer

Examples of other drugs that may be used to treat kidney cancer include:

  • other immunotherapy drugs, such as:
    • avelumab (Bavencio)
    • nivolumab (Opdivo)
    • pembrolizumab (Keytruda)
  • targeted therapy drugs, such as:

Alternatives for colorectal cancer

Examples of other drugs that may be used to treat colorectal cancer include:

  • other immunotherapy drugs, such as:
    • nivolumab (Opdivo)
    • pembrolizumab (Keytruda)
  • targeted therapy drugs, such as:
    • bevacizumab (Avastin)
    • cetuximab (Erbitux)
    • encorafenib (Braftovi)
    • panitumumab (Vectibix)
    • ramucirumab (Cyramza)
    • regorafenib (Stivarga)
    • ziv-aflibercept (Zaltrap)

Alternatives for liver cancer

Examples of other drugs that may be used to treat liver cancer include:

  • other immunotherapy drugs, such as:
    • atezolizumab (Tecentriq)
    • nivolumab (Opdivo)
    • pembrolizumab (Keytruda)
  • targeted therapy drugs, such as:
    • bevacizumab (Avastin)
    • cabozantinib (Cabometyx)
    • lenvatinib (Lenvima)
    • ramucirumab (Cyramza)
    • regorafenib (Stivarga)
    • sorafenib (Nexavar)

Alternatives for non-small cell lung cancer

Examples of other drugs that may be used to treat non-small cell lung cancer include:

  • other immunotherapy drugs, such as:
    • atezolizumab (Tecentriq)
    • durvalumab (Imfinzi)
    • nivolumab (Opdivo)
    • pembrolizumab (Keytruda)
  • targeted therapy drugs, such as:
    • bevacizumab (Avastin)
    • crizotinib (Xalkori)
    • ceritinib (Zykadia)
    • lorlatinib (Lorbrena)
    • entrectinib (Rozlytrek)
    • everolimus (Afinitor)
    • ramucirumab (Cyramza)

Alternatives for pleural mesothelioma

Examples of other drugs that may be used to treat malignant* pleural mesothelioma include:

  • other immunotherapy drugs, such as:
    • nivolumab (Opdivo)
    • pembrolizumab (Keytruda)
  • targeted therapy drugs, such as:
    • bevacizumab (Avastin)

* Malignant means that the cancer can’t be removed with surgery.

Yervoy can cause mild or serious side effects that may vary depending on which condition the drug is being used to treat. The following lists contain some of the key side effects that may occur while taking Yervoy. These lists do not include all possible side effects.

For more information about the possible side effects of Yervoy, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. They can give you tips on how to deal with any side effects that may be concerning or bothersome.

Note: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tracks side effects of drugs it has approved. If you’d like to notify the FDA about a side effect you’ve had with Yervoy, you can do so through MedWatch.

Mild side effects

Mild side effects* of Yervoy can include:

  • fatigue (lack of energy)
  • diarrhea?
  • itching
  • rash
  • nausea and vomiting
  • decreased appetite
  • weight loss
  • headache
  • pain in your muscles, bones, or joints
  • fever

Most of these side effects may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. But if they become more severe or don’t go away, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

* This is a partial list of mild side effects from Yervoy. To learn about other mild side effects, talk with your doctor or pharmacist or view Yervoy’s medication guide.
? For more information about this side effect, see “Side effect details” below.

Serious side effects

Serious side effects from Yervoy aren’t common, but they can occur. Call your doctor right away if you have serious side effects. Call 911 or your local emergency number if your symptoms feel life threatening or you think you’re having a medical emergency.

Yervoy helps your immune system attack cancer cells. But if your immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in your body, serious side effects can occur. These side effects can happen anywhere in your body. They can sometimes be life threatening or, in rare cases, fatal. Examples of these side effects and their symptoms can include:

  • Hepatitis (liver inflammation). Symptoms can include:
    • pain on the right side of your belly
    • severe nausea or vomiting
    • unusually dark urine
    • bruising or bleeding more easily than usual
    • jaundice (yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes)
  • Serious skin reactions. Symptoms can include:
    • rash
    • itching
    • blistering
    • peeling
    • sores in your nose, mouth, throat, or genital area
  • Hormone problems, such as thyroid, adrenal, or pituitary gland disorders. Symptoms can include:
    • weight gain or loss
    • constipation or diarrhea
    • feeling cold or hot
    • extreme fatigue
    • dizziness or fainting
    • hair loss
    • fast heartbeat
    • increased sweating
    • headache
    • sensitivity to light
    • changes in mood or behavior, such as irritability or reduced sex drive
  • Type 1 diabetes. Symptoms can include:
    • urinating more often than usual
    • feeling unusually thirsty or hungry
    • blurred vision
  • Pneumonitis (lung inflammation). Symptoms can include:
    • new or worsening cough
    • new or worsening shortness of breath
    • new or worsening chest pain
  • Nephritis (kidney inflammation), which can lead to kidney failure. Symptoms can include:
    • blood in your urine
    • producing less urine than usual
    • swollen ankles
    • loss of appetite
  • Colitis (inflammation of the large intestine).*
  • Infusion-related reactions.*
  • Allergic reaction.*

* For more information about this side effect, see “Side effect details” below.

Side effects in children

Yervoy is approved for use in children ages 12 years and older to treat certain forms of melanoma (a type of skin cancer) and colorectal cancer. Yervoy can cause the same kinds of side effects in children as it can in adults. These are described above and below. Side effect percentages are also similar in children and adults.

Side effect details

Here’s some detail on certain side effects this drug may cause.

Colitis

Some people receiving Yervoy treatment may develop colitis, which refers to inflammation of the large intestine. Colitis was a common side effect in clinical studies of Yervoy. To find out the percentages of people who had this side effect in clinical studies, see the drug’s prescribing information.

Colitis is a serious side effect that can occur when your immune system mistakenly attacks cells in the lining of your large intestine. Colitis can sometimes be life threatening or, in rare cases, fatal.

See your doctor right away if you have new or worsening symptoms of colitis during or after treatment with Yervoy. These symptoms may include:

  • diarrhea (loose stools or passing stools more often than usual)
  • stools that are black, sticky, or tar-like
  • stools that contain mucus or blood
  • severe belly pain

If you have colitis during Yervoy treatment, it may need to be treated with corticosteroids (drugs that reduce inflammation). Your doctor may postpone your next dose of Yervoy until the colitis has eased. But if your colitis symptoms don’t improve, you may need to stop treatment with Yervoy.

For more information about colitis and Yervoy, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Diarrhea

Diarrhea may occur during or after Yervoy treatment. Diarrhea was one of the most common side effects in clinical studies of Yervoy. To find out how often this side effect occurred in clinical studies, see the drug’s prescribing information.

With diarrhea, you pass loose or watery stools. Or, you may need to pass stools urgently or more frequently than usual.

If you have diarrhea during Yervoy treatment, be sure to drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration (low fluid levels). You should also talk with your doctor about the best way to manage diarrhea. They may recommend medication to help stop the condition. They may also recommend taking a rehydration solution to help prevent dehydration.

If your diarrhea is severe or painful, lasts for longer than a couple of days, or contains blood or mucus, see your doctor right away. Diarrhea can sometimes be a symptom of colitis, which is a serious side effect of Yervoy. See “Colitis” above to read more about this.

For more information about diarrhea and Yervoy, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Infusion-related reactions

Some people may have infusion-related reactions with Yervoy. Infusion-related reactions occur during or shortly after you receive a drug by intravenous (IV) infusion. With an IV infusion, a drug is slowly injected into a vein over a period of time.

Infusion-related reactions were uncommon in clinical studies of Yervoy. To find out how often this side effect occurred in clinical studies, see the drug’s prescribing information.

Infusion-related reactions may cause symptoms such as:

Talk with your doctor right away if you have any of these symptoms during or shortly after your Yervoy infusion. Your infusion may need to be slowed down or stopped temporarily until your symptoms have eased. If you have a severe infusion-related reaction to Yervoy, you may need to stop treatment permanently.

For more information about infusion-related reactions with Yervoy, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Allergic reaction

As with most drugs, some people can have an allergic reaction after taking Yervoy. Symptoms of a mild allergic reaction can include:

  • rash
  • itchiness
  • flushing (warmth, swelling, or redness in your skin)

A more severe allergic reaction is rare but possible. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction can include:

  • swelling under your skin, typically in your eyelids, lips, hands, or feet
  • swelling of your tongue, mouth, or throat
  • trouble breathing

Call your doctor right away if you have an allergic reaction to Yervoy, as the reaction could become severe. Call 911 or your local emergency number if your symptoms feel life threatening or you think you’re having a medical emergency.

How long do Yervoy side effects last?

Most mild side effects of Yervoy tend to go away by themselves within a few days or a couple of weeks. But if you have side effects that become more severe or don’t go away, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Some side effects may need to be treated with other medications. For example, serious side effects that are caused by your immune system attacking healthy cells in your body may need treatment with corticosteroids. Some of these side effects may take a few months to go away, while others may be permanent.

If you’re concerned about long-lasting side effects with Yervoy, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

As with all medications, the cost of Yervoy can vary. To find current prices for Yervoy in your area, check out WellRx.com.

The cost you find on WellRx.com is what you may pay without insurance. The actual price you’ll pay depends on your insurance plan, your location, and the pharmacy you use.

Before approving coverage for Yervoy, your insurance company may require you to get prior authorization. This means that your doctor and insurance company will need to communicate about your prescription before the insurance company will cover the drug. The insurance company will review the prior authorization request and decide if the drug will be covered.

If you’re not sure if you’ll need to get prior authorization for Yervoy, contact your insurance company.

Financial and insurance assistance

If you need financial support to pay for Yervoy, or if you need help understanding your insurance coverage, help is available.

Bristol Myers Squibb, the manufacturer of Yervoy, provides ways to help lower the cost of the drug. For more information and to find out if you’re eligible for support, call 800-861-0048 or visit the manufacturer’s website.

Generic or biosimilar version

Yervoy is available only as a brand-name medication. This drug is a biologic that’s not currently available in generic or biosimilar form.

A biologic is a drug that’s made using living cells. Other drugs are made using chemicals. It’s possible to make exact copies of brand-name chemical drugs. These are called generics. Generics usually cost less than brand-name drugs.

It’s not possible to make exact copies of biologics. But it’s possible to make drugs that are similar to brand-name biologic drugs. These are called biosimilars. Like generics, biosimilars usually cost less than brand-name biologic drugs.

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about Yervoy.

Can Yervoy be used to treat breast cancer?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t approved Yervoy to treat breast cancer. But the drug may be prescribed off-label for this use. (Off-label drug use means using a drug for a purpose other than what it’s been approved for by the FDA.) Several ongoing studies, such as this one, are investigating the effectiveness of Yervoy for treating different forms of breast cancer.

If you’re interested in taking Yervoy for breast cancer, talk with your doctor.

Is Yervoy an immunotherapy drug?

Yes, Yervoy is an immunotherapy drug. Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that helps your immune system attack the cancer. (Your immune system is your body’s defense against disease.)

Yervoy increases the activity of white blood cells called T cells. This helps the T cells attack the cancer cells.

For more information about how Yervoy works, see the “How Yervoy works” section below.

Will I need to have lab tests done while I’m taking Yervoy?

Yes, you’ll likely need to have lab tests done before you receive each dose of Yervoy. This is to make sure it’s safe for you to use the drug. Your doctor may also order lab tests if you have symptoms of certain side effects during treatment with Yervoy.

Examples of lab tests your doctor may order include:

If any of these lab tests show a problem, your doctor will decide if it needs to be treated. They can also determine if your next dose of Yervoy should be delayed or if you should stop treatment completely.

The Yervoy dose and dosing schedule your doctor prescribes will depend on:

  • the type of cancer you’re using Yervoy to treat
  • your body weight (Yervoy dosage is described in milligrams [mg] per kilogram [kg] of body weight)
  • other treatments you may be having with Yervoy
  • if you have certain side effects

The following information describes dosages that are commonly used or recommended. However, be sure to take the dosage your doctor prescribes for you. Your doctor will determine the best dosage to fit your needs.

Drug forms and strengths

Yervoy comes as a liquid solution in single-dose vials. It’s available in one strength: 5 milligrams per milliliter (mg/mL). The vials come in two sizes:

  • 10 mL, which holds 50 mg of the drug
  • 40 mL, which holds 200 mg of the drug

Yervoy is given by intravenous (IV) infusion, which is an injection into a vein that’s given over a period of time. You’ll have these infusions at your doctor’s office, a hospital, or an infusion center.

Dosage for melanoma

Yervoy is used in two different ways for melanoma (a type of skin cancer). The recommended dosage depends on the form of melanoma being treated.

For the following types of melanoma, the recommended dosage is 3 mg/kg of body weight:

  • unresectable (can’t be removed with surgery)
  • metastatic (has spread to other parts of the body)

This dosage is typically given once every 3 weeks for up to four doses. Each infusion lasts for about 90 minutes.

For melanoma that has spread to nearby lymph nodes, Yervoy is used as adjuvant treatment after you’ve had surgery to remove the cancer. Adjuvant treatment reduces the risk of the cancer coming back after the surgery. The recommended dosage for this use is 10 mg/kg of body weight. Yervoy is typically given once every 3 weeks for up to four doses. After this, the drug is typically given once every 12 weeks for up to 3 years. Each infusion lasts for about 90 minutes.

Dosage for kidney cancer

The recommended dosage of Yervoy for kidney cancer is 1 mg/kg of body weight. This is typically given once every 3 weeks for up to four doses. Each infusion lasts for about 30 minutes.

Dosage for colorectal cancer

The recommended dosage of Yervoy for metastatic colorectal cancer is 1 mg/kg of body weight. This is typically given once every 3 weeks for up to four doses. Each infusion lasts for about 30 minutes.

Dosage for liver cancer

The recommended dosage of Yervoy for liver cancer is 3 mg/kg of body weight. This is typically given once every 3 weeks for up to four doses. Each infusion lasts for about 30 minutes.

Dosage for non-small cell lung cancer

The recommended dosage of Yervoy for non-small cell lung cancer is 1 mg/kg of body weight. This is typically given once every 6 weeks for up to 2 years. Each infusion lasts for about 30 minutes.

Dosage for pleural mesothelioma

Yervoy is approved to treat pleural mesothelioma that’s malignant (can’t be removed with surgery). The recommended dosage of Yervoy for this use is 1 mg/kg of body weight. This is typically given once every 6 weeks for up to 2 years. Each infusion lasts for about 30 minutes.

Children’s dosage

Yervoy is used to treat the following types of cancer in children ages 12 years and older:

  • melanoma that’s unresectable (can’t be removed with surgery) or metastatic (has spread to other parts of the body)
  • metastatic colorectal cancer

The recommended dosages for these types of cancer in children are the same as those used for adults. The dosages are described above.

What if I miss a dose?

It’s important to keep your appointments for your Yervoy infusions. If you miss an appointment, call your doctor’s office right away to reschedule.

To help make sure you don’t miss an appointment, try setting a reminder on your phone.

Will I need to use this drug long term?

It depends on the type of cancer being treated.

For non-small cell lung cancer and pleural mesothelioma, Yervoy is meant to be used as a long-term treatment. If you and your doctor determine that Yervoy is safe and effective for you, you may receive the drug for up to 2 years.

For adjuvant treatment of melanoma that has spread to nearby lymph nodes, Yervoy is also meant to be used long term. (Adjuvant treatment reduces the risk of the cancer coming back after the surgery.) If you and your doctor determine that Yervoy is safe and effective for you, you may receive the drug for up to 3 years for this use.

But for the following types of cancer, you’ll have up to only four doses of Yervoy:

  • melanoma that’s metastatic or unresectable (can’t be removed with surgery)
  • kidney cancer
  • liver cancer
  • colorectal cancer

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves prescription drugs such as Yervoy to treat certain conditions. Yervoy may also be used off-label for other conditions. Off-label drug use means using a drug for a purpose other than what it’s been approved for by the FDA.

Yervoy for melanoma

Yervoy is FDA-approved to treat certain forms of melanoma (a type of skin cancer). Specifically, it’s approved to treat:

  • Melanoma that is unresectable (can’t be removed with surgery) or metastatic, which means it has spread to other parts of the body. Yervoy is approved for this use in adults and children ages 12 years and older.
  • Melanoma that has spread to nearby lymph nodes, which must be bigger than 1 millimeter. Yervoy is approved for this use in adults who have had surgery to remove the melanoma and affected lymph nodes. The drug is used as an adjuvant treatment for this type of melanoma. Adjuvant treatment reduces the risk of the cancer coming back after the surgery.

Melanoma explained

Melanoma starts in melanocytes. These are cells that make melanin, which is the pigment that gives skin its color. Melanoma may also be called malignant melanoma or cutaneous melanoma. It can be more serious than other types of skin cancer because it’s more likely to spread to other parts of the body.

Melanomas can develop anywhere on your skin, including the palms of your hands and soles of your feet. They can also develop on mucous membranes (the moist linings that protect certain parts of your body, such as your lips or the inside of your mouth).

Symptoms of melanoma may include:

  • the development of new moles that may be asymmetrical or have a ragged edge
  • a mole that changes in size, shape, or color
  • a mole that itches, bleeds, oozes, develops a sore, or feels swollen or tender
  • changes such as those mentioned above in other pigmented areas of skin

Effectiveness for melanoma

Yervoy has been found to be effective for treating melanoma. The drug is included as a treatment option for this type of cancer in guidelines from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). For information on how Yervoy performed in clinical studies, see the drug’s prescribing information.

Yervoy for kidney cancer

Yervoy is FDA-approved to treat advanced kidney cancer. “Advanced” means that the cancer has spread from your kidneys to other parts of your body. Kidney cancer may also be known as renal cell carcinoma.

Yervoy is approved for use in adults with kidney cancer that’s considered to be intermediate or poor risk. The risk level relates to the likelihood of recovery from the cancer. The risk is based on several factors, including your hemoglobin and calcium levels.

For this purpose, Yervoy is used with a drug called nivolumab (Opdivo) in people who haven’t had past treatment for their cancer.

Kidney cancer explained

Kidney cancer starts in cells that line the tubules in your kidneys. These tubules are tiny tubes that filter unwanted substances out of your blood and into your urine.

Symptoms of kidney cancer may include:

  • blood in your urine
  • a lump in your side or lower back
  • pain in your side or lower back
  • loss of appetite
  • losing weight for no obvious reason
  • fatigue (lack of energy)

Effectiveness for kidney cancer

Yervoy has been found to be effective for treating kidney cancer. The drug is included as a treatment option for this type of cancer in guidelines from the NCCN. For information on how Yervoy performed in clinical studies, see the drug’s prescribing information.

Yervoy for colorectal cancer

Yervoy is FDA-approved to treat certain forms of colorectal cancer* (bowel cancer) in adults and children ages 12 years and older. Specifically, it’s approved for colorectal cancer that:

  • is metastatic (has spread from your bowel to other parts of your body)
  • has certain genetic changes called microsatellite instability-high (MSI-H) or mismatch repair deficient (dMMR) mutations?
  • has progressed (come back or got worse) after chemotherapy with oxaliplatin (Eloxatin), irinotecan, and a fluoropyrimidine drug such as fluorouracil (Carac, Efudex, others) or capecitabine (Xeloda)

For this purpose, Yervoy is used with a drug called nivolumab (Opdivo).

* Yervoy received accelerated approval from the FDA to treat colorectal cancer. Accelerated approval is based on information from early clinical trials. The FDA’s decision for full approval will be made after additional clinical trials have been completed. To learn more, see “FDA approval” in the “What is Yervoy?” section above.
? MSI-H and dMMR are genetic mutations (abnormal changes in gene) that can cause certain types of cancer. These mutations stop genetic material in your body from correcting its own mistakes. Typically, these mistakes are made when the genes are copied to make new proteins or cells.

Colorectal cancer explained

Colorectal cancer typically starts from a growth called a polyp on the lining of your rectum or colon (large intestine).

Symptoms of colorectal cancer may include:

  • a change in your usual bowel habits, such as constipation or diarrhea, that lasts for longer than a few days
  • feeling that your bowels aren’t empty after passing a stool
  • bleeding from your rectum
  • blood in your stool, which can make your stool look dark brown, black, or like tar
  • belly pain or bloating
  • fatigue (lack of energy)
  • losing weight for no obvious reason

Effectiveness for colorectal cancer

Yervoy has been found to be effective for treating colorectal cancer. The drug is included as a treatment option for this type of cancer in guidelines from the NCCN. For information on how Yervoy performed in clinical studies, see the drug’s prescribing information.

Yervoy for liver cancer

Yervoy is FDA-approved to treat a type of liver cancer* called hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). For this purpose, Yervoy is approved for use in adults who have previously taken sorafenib (Nexavar) to treat the cancer. Yervoy is used with another drug called nivolumab (Opdivo).

* Yervoy received accelerated approval from the FDA to treat HCC. Accelerated approval is based on information from early clinical trials. The FDA’s decision for full approval will be made after additional clinical trials have been completed. To learn more, see “FDA approval” in the “What is Yervoy?” section above.

Liver cancer explained

HCC is the most common form of liver cancer. It starts in cells of the liver tissue.

Symptoms of liver cancer may include:

  • feeling full after eating small amounts of food
  • a lump or swelling under your ribs on the right side
  • pain in your upper right belly or near your right shoulder blade
  • loss of appetite
  • losing weight for no obvious reason
  • nausea or vomiting
  • jaundice (yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes)

Effectiveness for liver cancer

Yervoy has been found to be effective for treating liver cancer. The drug is included as a treatment option for this type of cancer in guidelines from the NCCN. For information on how Yervoy performed in clinical studies, see the drug’s prescribing information.

Yervoy for non-small cell lung cancer

Yervoy is FDA-approved to treat certain forms of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in adults. Specifically, it’s approved for:

  • NSCLC that is metastatic (has spread to other parts of the body) and meets two criteria. The NSCLC must test positive for a protein called PD-L1. It must also not have certain genetic changes called EGFR* or ALK* mutations. For this purpose, Yervoy is used with a drug called nivolumab (Opdivo) as a first treatment for the metastatic cancer.
  • NSCLC that is metastatic or recurrent (has come back after past treatment) and doesn’t have EGFR or ALK mutations. For this use, Yervoy is used with nivolumab and two cycles of chemotherapy containing platinum and another drug. Yervoy is used as a first treatment for the metastatic or recurrent cancer.

* EGFR stands for epidermal growth factor receptor. ALK is short for anaplastic lymphoma kinase.

Non-small cell lung cancer explained

NSCLC is the most common form of lung cancer. It can develop from various kinds of cells in your lungs.

Symptoms of NSCLC may include:

  • cough that doesn’t go away
  • shortness of breath
  • hoarse voice
  • frequent lung infections, such as bronchitis
  • chest pain

Effectiveness for non-small cell lung cancer

Yervoy has been found to be effective for treating NSCLC. The drug is included as a treatment option for this type of cancer in guidelines from the NCCN. For information on how Yervoy performed in clinical studies, see the drug’s prescribing information.

Yervoy for pleural mesothelioma

Yervoy is FDA-approved to treat a type of cancer called pleural mesothelioma in adults. The drug is used when the cancer is considered malignant (can’t be removed with surgery). For this purpose, Yervoy is used with a drug called nivolumab (Opdivo) as a first treatment for the cancer.

Pleural mesothelioma explained

Malignant pleural mesothelioma affects the pleura. The pleura is a thin layer of tissue that covers the outside of the lungs and lines the inside of the chest cavity. This type of cancer is typically associated with exposure to asbestos.

Symptoms of malignant pleural mesothelioma may include:

  • pain under your ribs
  • shortness of breath
  • cough
  • losing weight for no obvious reason

Effectiveness for pleural mesothelioma

Yervoy has been found to be effective for treating malignant pleural mesothelioma. The drug is included as a treatment option for this type of cancer in guidelines from the NCCN. For information on how Yervoy performed in clinical studies, see the drug’s prescribing information.

Yervoy and children

Yervoy is FDA-approved to treat the following types of cancer in children ages 12 years and older:

  • Melanoma, which is a form of skin cancer. The melanoma must be unresectable (can’t be removed with surgery) or metastatic , which means it has spread to other parts of the body.
  • Colorectal cancer.* For details of the drug’s use for this type of cancer, see “Yervoy for colorectal cancer” above.

Yervoy is not approved for any other uses in children.

* Yervoy received accelerated approval from the FDA to treat colorectal cancer. Accelerated approval is based on information from early clinical trials. The FDA’s decision for full approval will be made after additional clinical trials have been completed. To learn more, see “FDA approval” in the “What is Yervoy?” section above.

Yervoy is used with nivolumab (Opdivo) to treat certain forms of the following types of cancer:

Both Yervoy and nivolumab are immunotherapy drugs that help your immune system attack the cancer. (Your immune system is your body’s defense against disease.) These drugs work in slightly different ways to affect your immune system.

For kidney, colorectal, and liver cancer, Yervoy is used with nivolumab for the first four doses. You’ll be given separate infusions of each drug on the same day, once every 3 weeks. After this, you’ll likely continue treatment with nivolumab alone.

For NSCLC, you’ll receive Yervoy once every 6 weeks and nivolumab once every 2 or 3 weeks for up to 2 years. For certain types of NSCLC, you’ll also have two sessions of chemotherapy containing platinum and another drug.

For pleural mesothelioma, you’ll receive Yervoy once every 6 weeks and nivolumab once every 3 weeks for up to 2 years.

Yervoy is administered by intravenous (IV) infusion, which is an injection into a vein that’s given over a period of time. The administration time for Yervoy infusions depends on the type of cancer being treated:

  • For melanoma, Yervoy is used alone. Each infusion lasts for about 90 minutes.
  • For other types of cancer, Yervoy is used with a drug called nivolumab (Opdivo). You’ll receive these drugs as separate infusions. Each infusion lasts for about 30 minutes.

You’ll have Yervoy infusions at your doctor’s office, a hospital, or an infusion center.

When Yervoy is given

How often you’ll receive Yervoy depends on which type of cancer the drug is treating:

  • For kidney cancer, liver cancer, and colorectal cancer, you’ll likely receive Yervoy once every 3 weeks for up to four doses.
  • For melanoma that has spread to other parts of the body or can’t be removed with surgery, you’ll likely receive Yervoy once every 3 weeks for up to four doses.
  • For adjuvant treatment of melanoma that has spread to nearby lymph nodes, you’ll usually receive Yervoy once every 3 weeks for up to four doses. After this, you’ll likely receive the drug once every 12 weeks for up to 3 years. (Adjuvant treatment reduces the risk of the cancer coming back after you’ve had surgery to remove it.)
  • For non-small cell lung cancer and pleural mesothelioma, you’ll likely receive Yervoy once every 6 weeks for up to 2 years.

To help make sure you don’t miss an appointment for your Yervoy infusions, try setting a reminder on your phone.

Yervoy is used to treat certain forms of the following cancers:

How Yervoy works in cancer

Yervoy is an immunotherapy drug. Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that helps your immune system attack the cancer. (Your immune system is your body’s defense against disease.)

Your immune system usually notices and kills cancer cells. But certain cancers, such as those that Yervoy treats, can sometimes avoid being attacked by your immune system.

Yervoy works by increasing your immune system’s ability to attack these cancers. The drug does this by helping white blood cells called T cells attack the cancer cells.

Yervoy blocks a protein called CTLA-4 that’s found on the surface of the T cells. This protein usually helps control and reduce the T cells’ activity. By blocking CTLA-4, Yervoy allows the T cells to become more active and kill the cancer cells. This helps shrink the cancer.

How long does it take to work?

Yervoy starts working soon after you have your first treatment. But you may not notice the drug working. Your doctor will typically order various tests during your treatment to see if Yervoy is working for you.

Yervoy isn’t known to interact with alcohol. But if you have certain side effects from Yervoy, drinking alcohol could make these worse. Examples of these side effects include nausea, headache, and diarrhea. (For more information about side effects, see the “Yervoy side effects” section above.)

In addition, Yervoy can sometimes damage your liver, and this could be worsened by drinking alcohol.

If you drink alcohol, talk with your doctor about how much is safe for you to consume during your treatment with Yervoy.

Yervoy isn’t known to interact with other medications, supplements, or foods. However, this doesn’t mean that interactions aren’t possible.

Before taking Yervoy, talk with your doctor and pharmacist. Tell them about all prescription, over-the-counter, and other drugs you take. Also, tell them about any vitamins, herbs, and supplements you use. Sharing this information can help you avoid potential interactions.

If you have questions about drug interactions that may affect you, ask your doctor or pharmacist.

Yervoy isn’t safe to use while pregnant. The drug hasn’t been studied during pregnancy. But based on the way the drug works, Yervoy may harm a developing fetus if used during pregnancy. In studies of pregnant animals, Yervoy was found to increase the risk of miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth, and death in infancy.

If you could become pregnant, your doctor will give you a pregnancy test before you receive Yervoy. This is to make sure that you’re not pregnant before you start treatment. During treatment, you should use an effective form of birth control to prevent pregnancy. See the section below called “Yervoy and birth control” for more details.

If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, talk with your doctor. They’ll likely recommend a treatment other than Yervoy for your cancer.

Yervoy isn’t safe to take during pregnancy. If you’re sexually active and you or your partner can become pregnant, talk with your doctor about your birth control needs while you’re using Yervoy.

For more information about taking Yervoy during pregnancy, see the “Yervoy and pregnancy” section above.

For females using Yervoy

If you could become pregnant, you should use an effective form of birth control while you’re receiving treatment with Yervoy. The forms could include condoms, birth control pills, patches, and injections. Also, you should keep using birth control for least 3 months after your last dose of Yervoy.

For males using Yervoy

Yervoy’s manufacturer hasn’t stated whether males* taking Yervoy need to use birth control. If you’re sexually active with a partner who could become pregnant, talk with your doctor. They can advise you on whether you need to use birth control during your Yervoy treatment.

* Use of the terms “male” and “female” within this article refer to a person’s sex assigned at birth.

You shouldn’t breastfeed during Yervoy treatment and for at least 3 months after your last dose. It’s not known if Yervoy passes into breast milk or if it can affect breast milk production. But it’s possible that Yervoy could cause serious side effects in a breastfed child.

If you’re currently breastfeeding or planning to breastfeed, talk with your doctor. They can discuss the best treatment options for you and some healthy ways to feed your child.

Before taking Yervoy, talk with your doctor about your health history. Yervoy may not be right for you if you have certain medical conditions or other factors affecting your health. These include:

  • Autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases occur when your immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in your body. Examples of these diseases include ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and lupus. Yervoy can sometimes cause your immune system to attack healthy cells in your body. This means that the drug could potentially worsen existing autoimmune disease. If you have an autoimmune disease, talk with your doctor about whether Yervoy is right for you.
  • Past organ transplant. Yervoy increases activity in your immune system. If you’ve had an organ transplant, Yervoy could cause your immune system to attack and reject the transplanted organ. Talk with your doctor about whether Yervoy is right for you.
  • Stem cell transplant. Yervoy can sometimes cause a serious complication called graft-versus-host disease if it’s taken before or after an allogenic hematopoietic stem cell transplant. If you’ve had a stem cell transplant or are planning to have one, talk with your doctor about whether Yervoy is right for you.
  • Allergic reaction. If you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to Yervoy or any of its ingredients, you shouldn’t take this drug. Ask your doctor which other medications are better options for you.
  • Pregnancy. Yervoy isn’t safe to use during pregnancy. For more information, see the “Yervoy and pregnancy” section above.
  • Breastfeeding. You shouldn’t breastfeed during treatment with Yervoy. For more information, see the “Yervoy and breastfeeding” section above.

Note: For more information about the potential negative effects of Yervoy, see the “Yervoy side effects” section above.

Disclaimer: Medical News Today has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or other healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.

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