Tell us about your symptoms and treatment experience. Take our survey here.

Yervoy (ipilimumab)

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: September 2023

Yervoy® (ipilimumab) is an immunotherapy drug used in combination with another immunotherapy, Opdivo® (nivolumab), to treat certain forms of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). It may be used as a first-line treatment for metastatic (has spread to other parts of the body) NSCLC that is positive for PD-L1, and has no EGFR or ALK tumor mutations.1,2

Yervoy and Opdivo are immunotherapy drugs that target different pathways that can allow the cancer to grow and spread without being kept in check by T-cells and the immune system. By targeting these pathways, these immunotherapies can help the body’s T-cells and immune system fight the cancer.1,2

Yervoy in combination with Opdivo, along with certain forms of chemotherapy, is also used as a first-line treatment for people with metastatic or recurrent (returned after treatment) NSCLC, with no EGFR or ALK tumor mutations.3

What are the ingredients in Yervoy?

The active ingredient in Yervoy is ipilimumab.2

How does Yervoy work?

Yervoy is a human monoclonal antibody. It is a type of targeted therapy called a CTLA-4 inhibitor. Yervoy blocks a protein on T cells called CTLA-4. Yervoy is used along with Opdivo, a PD-1 inhibitor, with or without chemo (depending on the specific form of NSCLC), to treat certain types of advanced NSCLC. Yervoy is not used alone for NSCLC treatment.4

Immunotherapy is a type of treatment that aims to boost the body’s own immune system to fight cancer cells. Sometimes, cancer cells are able to hide from the normal immune response through certain cellular pathways. Since the immune system is not attacking these cancer cells, they can grow and spread out of control. Immune checkpoint inhibitors like Yervoy help to block these pathways that suppress the immune system. This allows T cells and the immune system to attack the cancer.

What are the possible side effects?

The most common side effects of Yervoy, when used with Opdivo, include:3

  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Itching
  • Rash
  • Appetite loss

Yervoy can cause less common but serious side effects, including:3

  • Pneumonia (infection in the lungs)
  • Pneumonitis (inflammation of the lungs)
  • Colitis (intestinal inflammation)
  • Hepatitis (liver inflammation)
  • Kidney injury
  • Problems with hormone glands (such as thyroid, pituitary, adrenal, pancreas)

Yervoy can also cause reactions related to the drug infusion, such as:3

  • Chills or fever
  • Rash
  • Flushing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Back/neck pain
  • Itching

If you have a mild or moderate infusion reaction, your doctor may interrupt or slow your infusion. If you have a severe reaction, your doctor may stop Yervoy treatment.3

These are not all the possible side effects of Yervoy. Talk to your doctor about what to expect or if you experience any changes that concern you during treatment with Yervoy.

Other things to know

Yervoy can affect your immune system and cause it to attack normal organs and tissues. These problems may become severe or life-threatening. Contact your doctor right away if you experience any of the following:3

  • Diarrhea or colitis (severe abdominal pain, blood in the stool, black or tarry stools)
  • Liver problems (symptoms may include yellow skin or eyes, nausea, right-sided abdominal pain, urine that is darker than usual, increased bleeding and/or bruising)
  • Skin reactions such as a rash, itching, blistering, peeling, or sores
  • Hormonal issues resulting in weight gain/weight loss, frequent urination, increased appetite or thirst
  • Pneumonitis (shortness of breath, cough, chest pain)
  • Kidney problems (making less urine than usual, cloudy or bloody urine, swollen ankles)
  • Eye problems (blurry or double vision, sensitivity to light, eye pain, or redness)

Also, call your doctor right away if you have an irregular heartbeat, confusion, sleepiness, memory problems, mood or behavior changes, balance problems, tingling or numbness, severe muscle pain and/or weakness, muscle cramps, or bruising.3

Yervoy can harm an unborn baby. Women who can become pregnant should use birth control during treatment and for some time after the last dose of Yervoy. Women should also not breastfeed during treatment with Yervoy and for some time after the last dose. Talk to your doctor about your options for birth control and breastfeeding while taking Yervoy.3

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 Yervoy.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.