Yervoy (ipilimumab)

Yervoy®(ipilimumab) is a treatment for late stage (metastatic) melanoma skin cancer that cannot be removed by surgery. Yervoy® is the first treatment ever to improve overall survival in advanced melanoma patients.

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. It can usually be cured with surgery (excision) alone when discovered early. However, once it has spread to other parts of the body (metastasizes), treatment options are limited. Yervoy® was FDA approved in early 2011 as a treatment option for such cases.

Yervoy® is administered via an intravenous line in the vein (IV infusion). It takes about 90 minutes to receive a full dose. Yervoy® is usually given every 3 weeks for up to 4 doses. Your doctor will determine how much and how often you receive Yervoy®.

What is Yervoy®?

Yervoy® is classifed as a "monoclonal antibody" and is similar to the antibodies created by the body's immune system to fight infections.

The structure of Yervoy® causes it to bind to a molecule called CTLA-4 and prevent it from functioning normally.

When CTLA-4 is functioning normally, the immune system to slows down. By blocking CTLA-4,  Yervoy® helps to activate the immune system so that it more readily attacks and eliminates melanoma cells.

How Effective is Yervoy®?

In a clinical trial of previously treated patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma, Some people taking Yervoy® lived much longer than patients who did not receive Yervoy®.

In a large study published in 2010 in the New England Journal of Medicine, subjects previously treated unsuccessfully with other agents who received Yervoy® or Yervoy® plus a melanoma vaccine (gp100) lived, on average, 32% longer and had a 20% greater chance of surviving one year than those who received the vaccine alone. And 24% were alive after two years, compared with just 14% of those treated with the other therapy.

In another study, Yervoy® was found to increase overall survival in inoperable stage III or stage IV metastatic melanoma patients who had not received prior therapy. The study specifically showed that Yervoy® combined with the chemotherapy dacarbazine increased overall survival, while dacarbazine alone did not.

Possible Side Effects from Yervoy®

The most common side effects of Yervoy® were primarily due to overactvation of the immune system, including tiredness, diarrhea, itching, and rash

Yervoy® can also cause less common, but serious side effects .These side effects are most likely to begin during treatment, but they can show up months after the last infusion of Yervoy®.

To monitor for possible side effects, your doctor may recommend routine blood tests to monitor the body's reaction to the medication, including live function tests and thyroid function tests. Depending the results of these tests, your doctor may decide to stop or delay treatment with Yervoy®.


© 2012 Vivacare. Last updated February 13, 2012.

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Additional Resources

Yervoy Overview (link to NIH)
Patient Support Programs
Yervoy Treatment Journal (link to BMS)
En Espanol
Ipilimumab inyectable (link to NIH)
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