What is nivolumab?
Nivolumab, commonly known under the trade name OpdivoÒ, is a substance that belongs to the class of anticancer drugs called monoclonal antibodies. It is mainly used for the treatment of patients with advanced melanoma (not resectable or metastatic) in adults, alone or in association with hypilimumab.
It is indicated for the treatment of locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) after previous chemotherapy in adults. OPDIVO is also indicated in monotherapy for the treatment of advanced renal cell carcinoma after previous therapy in adults. OPDIVO is finally used for the treatment of adult patients with recurrent or refractory classical Hodgkin’s lymphoma (cHL) after autologous stem cell transplantation (ASCT) and treatment with brentuximab vedotin.
What is the principle of action
Monoclonal antibodies are synthetic substances, produced in the laboratory, capable of destroying certain types of cancer cells while minimizing damage to healthy cells. Their function is to recognize certain proteins (receptors) present on the surface of certain cancer cells. When the monoclonal antibody detects the presence of the receptor on the surface of the cancer cell, it engages there (like a key that fits into the lock: each key can only fit into one lock).
In this way, it stimulates the body’s immune system to attack the neoplastic cells and may also cause them to self-destruct, or it blocks the receptor by preventing it from binding to a different protein that stimulates the growth of neoplastic cells. As a result, not only are cancer cells no longer able to grow and proliferate, but new blood vessels that feed the tumor cannot be formed. As the supply of oxygen and nutrients is thus lacking, the tumour ‘starves’, and as a result it shrinks or at least stops growing.