Yervoy (Ipilimumab) – Intravenous


Yervoy (ipilimumab) could potentially cause severe or life-threatening immune reactions. These could occur in any system in the body including the skin, lungs, gastrointestinal system, endocrine system, kidneys, and liver. Yervoy could also cause a life-threatening infusion reaction.

What Is Yervoy?

Yervoy (ipilimumab) is a medication in the class of cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen 4 (CLTA-4) blocking antibodies. CTLA-4 suppresses the ability of T cells to work. When Yervoy blocks CTLA-4, the immune system can function better to destroy cancer cells.

Yervoy treats multiple types of cancer, including:

Yervoy is administered intravenously (within the vein) by a healthcare provider. It is not taken at home.

Drug Facts

Generic Name: Ipilimumab

Brand Name(s):  Yervoy

Drug Availability: Prescription

Therapeutic Classification: Antineoplastic agent

Available Generically: No

Controlled Substance: N/A

Administration Route: Intravenous

Active Ingredient: Ipilimumab

Dosage Form(s): Solution

What Is Yervoy Used For?

Yervoy is used to treat several types of cancer.


Yervoy can be used in people age 12 years and over with melanoma that is unable to be completely removed by surgery or melanoma that has spread (metastasized) to other areas of the body. It can be used in combination with a medication called Opdivo (nivolumab) in metastatic disease. 

Yervoy can also be given after surgical removal of melanoma that has spread to a lymph node. 

Renal Cell Carcinoma

Yervoy can be used in combination with Opdivo as a first-line treatment for those with intermediate or poor-risk advanced RCC. 

Colorectal Cancer

Yervoy can be used in combination with Opidivo for those age 12 years or older for metastatic colorectal cancer that has progressed after using certain chemotherapy medications. The cancer must also be what are called microsatellite-instability high (a change in cancer cells in which the number of repeated DNA bases in short, repeated sequences of DNA is higher than inherited) or mismatch repair (MMR) deficient (a loss of function that causes a failure to repair errors made during cell replication, allowing for mismatch mutations). 

Hepatocellular Carcinoma

Yervoy can be used in combination with Opdivo in people with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma that has progressed after using sorafenib. 

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Yervoy can be used in adults with metastatic NSCLC who do not have an eGFR (estimated glomerular filtration rate) or ALK (anaplastic lymphoma kinase) mutation and over 1% PD-L1 score. It is used along with Opdivo for first-line treatment. It can also be given along with certain chemotherapy. 

Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma

Yervoy can be combined with Opdivo as a first-line treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma that can't be surgically removed.

Yervoy (Ipilimumab) Drug Information: Person's torso with areas affected with red circles

Verywell / Dennis Madamba

How to Take Yervoy 

Yervoy is given through an IV infusion at a cancer treatment center. It is not taken at home.

You can expect the Yervoy administration to take 30 minutes for each infusion. However, if you are receiving Yervoy for melanoma removed by surgery, you will typically receive Yervoy over a 90-minute infusion.

How Long Does Yervoy Take to Work?

Although Yervoy can begin working immediately, there may not be any noticeable difference in cancer improvement for a few months. Your oncologist will conduct imaging studies periodically during treatment to determine the size and location of the cancer while taking Yervoy. 

What Are the Side Effects of Yervoy?

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. A healthcare provider can advise you on side effects. If you experience other symptoms, contact your pharmacist or a medical professional. You may report side effects to the FDA at or 800-FDA-1088.

Common Side Effects

The most common side effects that can be experienced when getting Yervoy can include:

  • Feeling tired (fatigue)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Itching
  • Rash
  • Decreased appetite
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight loss
  • Insomnia (difficulty falling or staying asleep)
  • Fever

Severe Side Effects

Severe side effects associated with Yervoy occur when the immune system begins to attack healthy, non-cancerous cells and cause inflammation. This could happen to any area of the body. Some severe side effects can include:

  • Hormone problems: A variety of symptoms can occur, including worsening headache, extreme tiredness, feeling cold, hair loss, increased sweating, changes in mood, and elevated blood sugar. 
  • Gastrointestinal problems: These symptoms can include abdominal pain and severe diarrhea. 
  • Kidney problems: Symptoms of kidney problems can include decreased urine, blood in the urine, and swelling to the ankles and feet. 
  • Liver problems: Symptoms of liver problems can include yellow color to the whites of the eyes and the skin, tea-colored urine, and abdominal pain. 
  • Lung problems: Symptoms affecting the lungs include chest pain, cough, and shortness of breath. 
  • Skin problems: Skin problems can include a severe rash, itching, or blistering.
  • Eye problems: Eye problems can include sensitivity to light, vision changes, or eye pain. 

Long-Term Side Effects

Severe side effects have the potential to become long-term effects if they are not treated.

Report Side Effects

Yervoy may cause other side effects. Call your healthcare provider if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.

If you experience a serious side effect, you or your healthcare provider may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting Program or by phone (800-332-1088).

Dosage: How Much Yervoy Should I Take?

The dosage of Yervoy varies based on the type of cancer it is treating and if it is being given in combination with Opdivo. Your healthcare provider will determine what the right dosage is for you and your cancer. Some examples include:

  • When used alone for metastatic melanoma, the dose is 3 milligrams of medicine per kilogram of body weight (mg/kg) every 3 weeks for a total of four doses.
  • When used after surgery in melanoma, the initial dose is 10 mg/kg every three weeks for four doses followed by 10mg/kg every 12 weeks for up to three years.
  • When used for RCC, CRC, and HCC, the dose of Yervoy is 1 mg/kg every three weeks for four doses.
  • In metastatic NSCLC and malignant pleural mesothelioma, the dose of Yervoy is 1 mg/kg every six weeks.  


If you experience any severe side effects, you may need to temporarily stop Yervoy while the side effects are treated. This may depend on the severity of the side effects. If they are severe enough, Yervoy may be stopped completely.

Talk to your oncologist about any side effects you experience. Your provider will determine whether any changes to your treatment are needed.


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It is very important that your doctor check your progress at regular visits to make sure that this medicine is working properly. Blood tests may be needed to check for unwanted effects.

Receiving this medicine while you are pregnant can harm your unborn baby. If you are a woman who can get pregnant, your doctor may do tests to make sure you are not pregnant before starting this medicine. Use an effective form of birth control to keep from getting pregnant during treatment and for at least 3 months after your last dose. If you think you have become pregnant while receiving the medicine, tell your doctor right away.

Colitis (inflammation of the colon) may occur with this medicine. Tell your doctor right away if you have stomach pain or tenderness, watery or bloody diarrhea, or a fever after receiving the medicine.

Check with your doctor right away if you have pain or tenderness in the upper stomach, pale stools, dark urine, a loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, or yellow eyes or skin. These could be symptoms of a serious liver problem.

Serious skin reactions (eg, exfoliative dermatitis, Stevens-Johnson syndrome, drug rash with eosinophilia and systemic syndrome (DRESS), or toxic epidermal necrolysis) can occur with this medicine. Check with your doctor right away if you have blistering, peeling, or loosening of the skin, chills, cough, diarrhea, itching, joint or muscle pain, red irritated eyes, red skin lesions, often with a purple center, severe acne or skin rash, sore throat, sores or ulcers on the skin, mouth, or lips, swollen glands, unusual bleeding or bruising, or unusual tiredness or weakness while you are receiving this medicine.

Check with your doctor right away if you are having unusual weakness of the arms or legs, or a burning, numbness, tingling, or painful sensation in the arms, hands, legs, or feet. These could be symptoms of a serious nerve problem that can lead to paralysis.

Serious problems with the adrenal, pituitary, or thyroid glands (hormone glands) may occur while you are receiving this medicine. Tell your doctor if you start having continuing or unusual headaches, changes in mood or behavior (eg, being irritable or forgetful), lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting, unusual sluggishness, or an increase in weight.

Check with your doctor right away if blurred vision, difficulty with reading, eye pain, or any other change in vision occurs while you are receiving this medicine. Your doctor may want your eyes be checked by an ophthalmologist (eye doctor).

This medicine may increase the risk for other problems caused by the immune system, including pneumonitis (inflammation of the lungs), nephritis (kidney problem), or encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). Check with your doctor if you have chest pain, thickening of bronchial secretions, trouble breathing, bloody or cloudy urine, unusual tiredness or weakness, nausea, vomiting, unusual weight gain, swelling of the face, feet, or lower legs, confusion, irritability, headache, seizures, or stiff neck.

This medicine may cause inflammation of the heart muscle (myocardium) called myocarditis. Check with your doctor right away if you have chest pain or discomfort, fever, chills, a fast heartbeat, or trouble breathing.

This medicine may cause infusion-related reactions, which can be life-threatening and require immediate medical attention. Tell your doctor right away if you start to have a fever, chills or shaking, dizziness, trouble breathing, itching or rash, lightheadedness or fainting after receiving this medicine.

This medicine may increase your risk for possible organ transplant rejection. Talk to your doctor about this risk.

What Are Reasons I Shouldn’t Take Yervoy?

Yervoy should not be used in women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Do not breastfeed for at least three months after your last dose. 

What Other Medications Interact With Yervoy?

Other drugs may interact with Yervoy, including prescription and over-the-counter (OTC, not needing a prescription) medications, vitamins, and herbal products. Tell your healthcare provider about all your current medications and any medication you start or stop using.

What Medications Are Similar?

Yervoy is the only CTLA-4 inhibitor currently available. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is Yervoy used for?

    Yervoy is used to treat multiple types of cancer. These types include melanoma, renal cell carcinoma, colorectal cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, and malignant pleural mesothelioma

  • How does Yervoy work?

    Yervoy works by blocking CTLA-4. CTLA-4 prevents T cells, part of the immune system, from being able to attack and destroy cancer cells. Yervoy blocks CTLA-4, which allows the T cells to attack the cancer.

  • What are the side effects of Yervoy?

    The most common side effects of Yervoy include fatigue, nausea, weight loss, and decreased appetite. Yervoy can cause more severe side effects if the immune system causes inflammation to healthy tissue. This can affect any system in the body. 

How Can I Stay Healthy While Taking Yervoy?

Yervoy is ordered by a medical oncologist to treat cancer. Starting a cancer treatment can be scary and overwhelming. Remember that your healthcare providers are available to answer questions you might have and address any concerns about your treatment.

Keep regularly scheduled follow-ups with your cancer care team and immediately let them know if you have any side effects that are new or difficult to manage. Also, make sure to give your healthcare provider an updated list of your prescription medications, OTC medications, or herbal supplements. Getting regular exercise and eating a healthy diet can help you feel better during your cancer treatment. 

Medical Disclaimer

Verywell Health's drug information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended as a replacement for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a healthcare professional. Consult your healthcare provider before taking any new medication(s). IBM Watson Micromedex provides some of the drug content, as indicated on the page.

1 Source
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Bristol Myers Squibb. Highlights of prescribing information-Yervoy.

By Julie Scott, MSN, ANP-BC, AOCNP
Julie is an Adult Nurse Practitioner with oncology certification and a healthcare freelance writer with an interest in educating patients and the healthcare community.