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Nivolumab in combination with ipilimumab for the adjuvant treatment of melanoma


Cancer and Palliative Care

February 2019

Nivolumab in combination with ipilimumab is in development for the treatment of melanoma following surgery. Melanoma is a type of skin cancer which arises from the pigment cells (melanocytes) in the skin. One of the most important causes of melanoma is exposure to too much ultraviolet light in sunlight. Melanoma is considered to be the most serious type of skin cancer because it is more likely to spread from the skin to other parts of the body than other types of skin cancer. The primary treatment of melanoma is usually surgery. Additional (‘adjuvant’) treatment is usually recommended after surgery to reduce their chances of recurrence.
Nivolumab works by improving the activity of white blood cells (T-cells) thereby increasing the ability of the immune system to kill cancer cells. Ipilimumab works in a different way but also to increase the activity of T-cells. It is thought that when used together, both drugs may be more effective than each on its own. Both drugs given by injection are already used in combination in the treatment of advanced melanoma. If licenced as an adjuvant treatment option, nivolumab in combination with ipilimumab has the potential to improve long-term outcomes in melanoma patients.

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