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Immunotherapy Monoclonal Antibody

Brand names:


Often used for:

Colorectal cancer, Hodgkin lymphoma, Melanoma, Renal cell cancer, Head and neck cancer, Lung cancer, Hepatocellular carcinoma, Urothelial carcinoma 

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What is Nivolumab?

Nivolumab is a type of medicine called a monoclonal antibody. Nivolumab is considered a type of immunotherapy because it uses the patient’s immune system to attack the cancer cells. It is also a targeted therapy because the medicine is specific to certain cell features and “targets” those cells.

Blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, and temperature will be checked regularly during and after the infusion to watch for infusion-related side effects.

Patients will have regular blood draws to check blood counts and blood glucose levels and monitor kidney, liver, and thyroid function.

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Given as a liquid into a vein by IV

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Possible Side Effects

  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Rash or itching
  • Diarrhea
  • Liver problems
  • Symptoms of a common cold (runny nose, sneezing, nose and throat irritation)
  • Cough, shortness of breath
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bone, joint, or muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Problems sleeping
  • Low blood counts (may cause increased risk of infection, bleeding, anemia and/or fatigue)
  • High blood sugar
  • Kidney problems
  • Low sodium levels in the blood
  • Low potassium levels in the blood
  • Infusion-related reactions: Symptoms may include chills, shortness of breath, coughing, dizziness, low blood pressure, pain in the chest, swelling of the face or neck
  • Complications associated with stem cell transplant using donor stem cells (allogeneic stem cell transplant): Serious complications may occur when donor cells attack the patient’s organs. If you are considering an allogeneic stem cell transplant, tell your doctor that you have received nivolumab therapy.

Not all patients who take nivolumab will experience these side effects. Common side effects are in bold, but there may be others. Please report all suspected side effects to your doctor or pharmacist.

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Tips for Families

Be sure to discuss these and other recommendations with your doctor or pharmacist.

  • Some patients may have a reaction to this medicine. Let a nurse know how you are feeling during the infusion.
  • Your care team may recommend diphenhydramine (Benadryl®) and acetaminophen (Tylenol®) and other medicines to help prevent flu-like symptoms.
  • Anti-nausea medicines may also be prescribed.
  • In some patients, nivolumab may cause the immune system to attack normal organs and cause side effects that can be serious. Talk to your doctor or get medical help right away if side effects get worse or do not go away.
  • Sexually active patients should take steps to prevent pregnancy during treatment and for 6 months after completion of therapy.
  • Patients should tell their doctor if they are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Nivolumab resources