Opdivo (nivolumab) Immunotherapy

Opdivo (nivolumab) is a new cancer treatment, referred to as immunotherapy, that stimulates the patient’s immune system to the cancer.

Opdivo is showing promise as a treatment that is helping people live longer without the cancer growing and live longer overall than if they did not take Opdivo or took other cancer medicines instead.

Opdivo is currently approved by the FDA for the treatment of various cancers, including lung, melanoma, kidney cancers (renal cell carcinoma) and the blood cancer Hodgkin lymphoma.

It is also being studied for the treatment of many other cancer types.

How it Works
This cancer drug goes by the trade name Opdivo, it’s generic name is nivolumab

Developed by Bristol-Myers Squibb, Opdivo is a new type of cancer treatment called immunotherapy. It is a immune checkpoint inhibitor, which, basically, helps to activate the immune system from being dormant. These “check points” also prevent the normal immune system from attacking everything, such as many types of normal cells.

The immune system is dormant until a need occurs to fight a foreign body, such as an infection. Cancerous tumors often fool the body’s immune system by creating proteins that activate this safety check-point. Because cancer hides from the immune system, our immune system sometimes needs an “alert” to know that it needs to go to work, and fight back against the cancer.

Opdivo is an antibody that binds to the protein called PD-1 on T cells that live in our immune system. T-cells are like a car ignition that gets the immune system off and running. This stimulates the immune system to find and kill cancer cells.

As a Treatment
Opdivo is given intravenously, through a portacath, into a vein, usually one day every 2 to 3 weeks in cases of advanced or metastatic cancer, but not in early stages at this time.

Opdivo is currently used for the treatment of lung, melanoma, classical Hodgkin lymphoma and kidney cancers.

  • Lung Cancer:  Opdivo is used in advanced and metastatic Non Small Cell Lung cancer that has worsened after treatment with chemotherapy, or targeted therapy.

  • Melanoma Skin Cancer: Opdivo is used in advanced and metastatic melanoma skin cancer.

  • Kidney Cancer:  Opdivo is used in advanced and metastatic clear cell kidney cancer that has worsened after treatment.

  • Hodgkin Lymphoma:  Opidivo was recently approved to treat classical Hodgkin Lymphoma (cHL) that has relapsed or has progressed.

What are Common Side Effects of Opdivo?
As with most cancer treatments, there are some common side effects that patients may experience during treatment. These include the following common side effects:

  • Feeling tired, experiencing fatigue.

  • Pain in muscles, bones and joints.

  • Decreased appetite.

  • Nausea.

  • Cough

  • Constipation

  • Shortness of breath.

  • Diarrhea

  • Rash

Immune System Related Side Effects

  • Inflammation of the lung, intestine, kidney, liver and brain.

  • Allergic reactions.

  • Problems with the thyroid.

Treatment During Pregnancy
Based on its mechanism of action, Opdivo may cause fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman. Women should also not become pregnant while taking this treatment.

Opdivo is a new cancer drug that stimulates the immune system to fight cancer. This immunotherapy is offering us more hope for living longer and living well with cancer.

About Clinical Trials
Clinical trials are essential to finding a cure for cancer. They help bring new methods of preventing, diagnosing and treating cancer from the laboratory to the doctors’ offices. The cancer community appreciates all of the patients who have participated or who are currently participating in clinical trials.

Learn More About Clinical Trials at Oncology Associates.

Find more information about specific clinical trials through Oncology Associates.