Nivolumab is a type of drug called an immune checkpoint inhibitor. It works by binding to the protein PD-1 on the surface of certain immune cells called T cells, which keeps cancer cells from suppressing the immune system. This allows the immune system to attack the cancer cells.
FDA label information for this drug is available at DailyMed.
Use in Cancer
Nivolumab is approved to be used alone or with other drugs to treat:
- Classic Hodgkin lymphoma in adults whose cancer has come back or has gotten worse after either:
- An autologous stem cell transplant and treatment with brentuximab vedotin; or
- At least three other types of treatment including an autologous stem cell transplant.
- Colorectal cancer in adults and children aged 12 years and older. Nivolumab is used alone or with ipilimumab to treat microsatellite instability-high (MSI-H) or mismatch repair deficient (dMMR) cancer that has spread to other parts of the body and got worse after treatment with a fluoropyrimidine, oxaliplatin, and irinotecan hydrochloride.¹
- Esophageal cancer or gastroesophageal junction adenocarcinoma. Nivolumab is used:
- In adults whose esophageal cancer or gastroesophageal junction adenocarcinoma has been treated with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy and then surgery to completely remove the cancer, but cancer cells were found in the removed tumor or lymph nodes.
- In adults whose squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus cannot be removed by surgery or has spread or come back after treatment with a fluoropyrimidine and platinum chemotherapy.
- In adults with squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus that cannot be removed by surgery or has spread to other parts of the body. It is given with either ipilimumab or a fluoropyrimidine and platinum chemotherapy as the first treatment.
- Gastric (stomach) cancer, gastroesophageal junction adenocarcinoma, or esophageal cancer that has spread. Nivolumab is used with a fluoropyrimidine and platinum chemotherapy.¹
- Malignant pleural mesothelioma. Nivolumab is used with ipilimumab as the first treatment in adults whose cancer cannot be removed by surgery.
- Melanoma. Nivolumab is used:
- Alone or with ipilimumab in patients whose cancer cannot be removed by surgery or has spread to other parts of the body.
- Alone to help prevent melanoma from coming back after surgery to remove melanoma in the skin and lymph nodes.
- Non-small cell lung cancer. Nivolumab is used:
- As the first treatment with ipilimumab in adults whose cancer has spread to other parts of the body and has the PD-L1 protein but does not have mutations in the EGFR or ALK gene.
- As the first treatment with ipilimumab and platinum chemotherapy in adults whose cancer has spread to other parts of the body or came back but does not have mutations in the EGFR or ALK gene.
- In patients whose cancer has spread to other parts of the body and has gotten worse during or after treatment with platinum chemotherapy. Patients whose cancer has a mutation in the EGFR or ALK gene should receive nivolumab only if their cancer got worse after treatment with FDA-approved therapy for these gene mutations.
- With platinum chemotherapy before surgery in adults with early-stage cancer that can be removed by surgery.
- Renal cell carcinoma (a type of kidney cancer) that is advanced. Nivolumab is used:
- In patients who have already received angiogenesis inhibitor therapy.
- With cabozantinib-s-malate as the first treatment.
- With ipilimumab as the first treatment in some patients.
- Squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck that has spread to other parts of the body or has come back. Nivolumab is used in patients whose cancer got worse during or after treatment with platinum chemotherapy.
- Urothelial carcinoma (a type of cancer in the bladder or urinary tract). Nivolumab is used:
- After surgery to remove the cancer in patients whose cancer has a high risk of coming back.
- In patients whose cancer was treated with platinum chemotherapy, but it did not work or is no longer working or that got worse after treatment with platinum chemotherapy.
¹This use is approved under FDA’s Accelerated Approval Program. As a condition of approval, a confirmatory trial(s) must show that nivolumab provides a clinical benefit in these patients.
Nivolumab is also being studied in the treatment of other types of cancer.
More About Nivolumab
Definition from the NCI Drug Dictionary - Detailed scientific definition and other names for this drug.
MedlinePlus Information on Nivolumab - A lay language summary of important information about this drug that may include the following:
- warnings about this drug,
- what this drug is used for and how it is used,
- what you should tell your doctor before using this drug,
- what you should know about this drug before using it,
- other drugs that may interact with this drug, and
- possible side effects.
Drugs are often studied to find out if they can help treat or prevent conditions other than the ones they are approved for. This patient information sheet applies only to approved uses of the drug. However, much of the information may also apply to unapproved uses that are being studied.
Research Results and Related Resources
Immunotherapy after Surgery Shows Long-Term Benefits for High-Risk Bladder Cancer
Immunotherapy and… Nothing Else? Studies Test Potential Paradigm Shift in Cancer Treatment
Study Identifies a Potential Cause of Immunotherapy’s Heart-Related Side Effects
Study in India Could Make Immunotherapy More Affordable Worldwide
New Drugs Raise Old Questions about Treating Cancer during Pregnancy
Clinical Trials Accepting Patients
Find Clinical Trials for Nivolumab - Check for trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials now accepting patients.