Opdivo (nivolumab)

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: August 2023 | Last updated: August 2023

Opdivo® (nivolumab) is an immunotherapy that is used to treat certain cases of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in adults. Opdivo may be used:1

  • Along with chemotherapy that contains platinum and another chemotherapy medicine before you have surgery for early-stage NSCLC
  • Along with Yervoy® (ipilimumab) as your first treatment for NSCLC:
  • Along with Yervoy and 2 cycles of chemotherapy that contains platinum and another chemotherapy medicine, as the first treatment of your NSCLC when your lung cancer:
    • Has spread or grown, or comes back, and
    • Your tumor does not have an abnormal EGFR or ALK gene

Your doctor will perform a genetic test to find out whether Opdivo is right for you.1

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What are the ingredients in Opdivo?

The active ingredient in Opdivo is nivolumab.1

How does Opdivo work?

Opdivo works with your immune system to find and attack lung cancer cells. It does this by sticking to and blocking a protein called PD-L1, which plays a key role in disguising cancer cells from the immune system. By binding to and blocking PD-L1, Opdivo helps your immune system find and attack the cancer cells.1

What are the possible side effects?

The most common side effects of Opdivo when used alone include:1

  • Feeling tired
  • Rash
  • Muscle, bone, and joint pain
  • Itchy skin
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Constipation
  • Decreased appetite
  • Back pain
  • Upper respiratory tract infection
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Abdominal pain
  • Urinary tract infection

The most common side effects of Opdivo when used along with Yervoy and/or chemotherapy include:1

  • Feeling tired
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Decreased appetite
  • Rash
  • Itching

These are not all the possible side effects of Opdivo. Talk to your doctor about what to expect when taking Opdivo. You also should call your doctor if you have any changes that concern you when taking Opdivo.

Other things to know

Opdivo can affect your immune system and cause it to attack normal organs and tissues. These problems may become severe or life-threatening. Before starting treatment with Opdivo, tell your doctor if you have:1

  • Immune system problems, such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, or lupus
  • Received an organ transplant
  • Received or plan to receive a stem cell transplant that uses donor stem cells (allogeneic)
  • Received radiation treatment to your chest area in the past and have received other medicines that are like Opdivo
  • A condition that affects your nervous system, such as myasthenia gravis or Guillain-Barré syndrome

Opdivo can harm an unborn baby. If you can become pregnant, you should use birth control during treatment and for some time after the last dose of Opdivo. You should also not breastfeed during treatment with Opdivo and for some time after the last dose. Talk to your doctor about your options for birth control and breastfeeding while taking Opdivo.1

Before beginning treatment for lung cancer, tell your doctor about all your health conditions and any other drugs, vitamins, or supplements you are taking. This includes over-the-counter drugs.

For more information, read the full prescribing information of Opdivo.