Ipilimumab: monoclonal antibody for the treatment of skin cancer

BMS has launched ipilimumab (Yervoy) in the UK for advanced unresectable or metastatic melanoma following prior therapy.

Yervoy may be administered by intravenous infusion with or without prior dilution
Yervoy may be administered by intravenous infusion with or without prior dilution


Ipilimumab is a fully human monoclonal antibody that indirectly enhances T-cell mediated responses by blocking the inhibitory signal of cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen-4 (CTLA-4). This results in T-cell activation, proliferation and lymphocyte infiltration into tumours, leading to tumour cell death.1

A randomised, double-blind, multicentre phase III study (n=676) to establish the efficacy of ipilimumab was conducted using an experimental melanoma peptide vaccine (gp100) as control. Patients with unresectable stage III/IV melanoma were randomised to receive ipilimumab, ipilimumab plus vaccine or vaccine alone (3:1:1). Ipilimumab, alone or in combination with the peptide, produced a significantly longer median overall survival of approximately 10 months compared with 6.4 months for patients receiving gp100 monotherapy (p<0.001). There was no significant difference in overall survival between the two ipilimumab groups.2

The most common adverse events were immune-related reactions, which occurred in approximately 60% of the treatment groups and 32% of the control group. Although ipilimumab-related adverse events can be severe, long-lasting or both, most are reversible with treatment. A total of 14 deaths related to study drugs were reported (with 7 from immune-related adverse events).2


  1. Yervoy Summary of Product Characteristics, July 2011.
  2. Hodi FS et al. N Engl J Med 2010; 363: 711-23. 

View Yervoy drug record

Further Information: Bristol–Meyers Squibb Pharmaceuticals Ltd

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