What is Yervoy (Ipilimumab)?

Also known as ipilimumab, Yervoy is a type of immunotherapy. This cancer treatment option enhances the body’s immune system so that it can better fight off disease. This medication was initially used to treat metastatic melanoma, a type of skin cancer. Recently, however, the drug was used to fight pleural mesothelioma, cancer that affects the lining of the lungs. Yervoy can be used in conjunction with other medications and treatments, such as immunotherapy drug Opdivo, also known as nivolumab.

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How Yervoy Works

This is an illustration displaying how Yervoy works.Yervoy enables the immune system to boost T cell movement. Every person has T cells that, when they are adequately stimulated, can assist the body in fighting off cancerous cells. Sometimes, when mesothelioma is in its later stages, T cells lose some ability to fight off tumors. This medication works to restore that T cell activity.

A doctor will administer this medication to a patient in a series of four doses, given as an intravenous (IV) infusion. This is usually done over 90-minute intervals every three weeks. This amount may differ based on your health, how much nivolumab (an immunotherapy that focuses on initiating cell death in cancer cells) is used in conjunction, and other factors that your doctor will be able to relay.

Mesothelioma and Yervoy

Immunotherapy works in that it inhibits certain checkpoints that change how cells act. Since single-drug checkpoint inhibition has worked with pleural mesothelioma patients in the past, researchers have been combining ipilimumab with nivolumab. Favorable results prompted doctors to continue using this combination of medications on patients.

Side Effects

Immunotherapies are a form of targeted treatment and those types of medications tend to target abnormal cells specifically, causing far fewer side-effects than other mesothelioma treatments like chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, which cannot differentiate between healthy cells and cancerous cells. Either way, all medication comes with side effects, differing in severity. More common ipilimumab side-effects can include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Itching
  • Rash
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

Rarer and more severe side effects can include:

  • Colitis
  • Eye issues such as blurry or double vision, eye pain or redness
  • Hepatitis
  • Pneumonitis
  • Skin problems such as rash, itching, sores or blisters
  • Encephalitis issues (inflammation of the brain) with symptoms such as headache, fever, fatigue, confusion, hallucinations

Yervoy can be extremely harmful in pregnant women or women who are breastfeeding. Also, make sure to tell your doctor if you take any other medications, vitamins, or herbal supplements. If you experience any of these side-effects after treatment with Yervoy, talk to your doctor right away.

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Talk to Your Doctor

Only your doctor can determine if Yervoy is the right mesothelioma treatment for you. Your reaction to Opdivo, the medication usually administered in conjunction with Yervoy, must also be considered. If you want to go through with Yervoy as an immunotherapy option for your treatment, let your doctor know. They’ll be able to administer some tests that can analyze your overall health, mesothelioma stage, and other factors to assess your compatibility with the drug.

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