Opdivo (nivolumab)

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: February 2022 | Last updated: March 2022

Opdivo (nivolumab) is a treatment option for people with previously treated advanced squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have a higher risk of getting lung cancer. One reason for this is that cigarette smoking is a major risk factor both for lung cancer and COPD.1

Opdivo is approved for adults who have tried platinum-based chemotherapy but their lung cancer has spread or grown during or after treatment. It is often given in combination with other immunotherapy drugs. This combination may be used with or without chemotherapy.1

What are the ingredients in Opdivo?

The active ingredient in Opdivo is nivolumab.1

How does Opdivo work?

Opdivo is an immunotherapy drug. Immunotherapy is a type of treatment that aims to boost the body's immune system to fight cancer cells. The immune system protects the body from viruses and bacteria, as well as cancer cells and tumors. The body’s usual immune response to cancer cells is to attack them with cells called T cells.1

However, some cancer cells are able to avoid the immune system’s attack by sending signals that deactivate T cells. This keeps them from working against the tumor. Opdivo works by re-activating the T cells to help the immune system fight cancer.1

What are the possible side effects of Opdivo?

The most common side effects of Opdivo include:1

  • Feeling tired
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in muscles, bones, and joints
  • Decreased appetite
  • Cough
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Fever
  • Headache

Opdivo may also cause serious side effects, including:1

  • Lung problems like cough and shortness of breath
  • Digestive issues like diarrhea and severe stomach pain
  • Liver problems like dark urine and yellowing of your skin or whites of your eyes
  • Hormone gland problems like weight gain or loss, mood changes, and fatigue
  • Kidney problems like blood in your urine and loss of appetite
  • Skin problems like rash and itching

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

Things to know about Opdivo

Before starting Opdivo, tell your doctor if you have:1

  • Immune system problems like Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, or lupus
  • Received an organ transplant
  • Received radiation treatment to your chest area in the past
  • A condition that affects your nervous system like myasthenia gravis or Guillain-Barre syndrome

Opdivo can harm an unborn baby. People who can become pregnant should use birth control during treatment and for some time after the last dose of Opdivo. People should also not breastfeed during treatment with Opdivo and for some time after the last dose. Talk to your doctor about your options for birth control and breastfeeding while taking Opdivo.1

Opdivo may interact with other medicines. Before beginning treatment for COPD, 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 Opdivo.

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