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Generic name: nivolumabnye-VOL-ue-mab ]
Drug class: Anti-PD-1 monoclonal antibodies

Medically reviewed by Sophia Entringer, PharmD. Last updated on Jun 10, 2021.

What is Opdivo?

Opdivo is a cancer medicine that is used alone or in combination with other medicines that works with your immune system to interfere with the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body.

Opdivo is used alone or in combination with other medicines to treat adults with:

  • advanced skin cancer (melanoma);

  • advanced non-small cell lung cancer;

  • pleural mesothelioma (cancer that affects the lining of the lungs and chest wall);

  • kidney cancer;

  • classical Hodgkin lymphoma;

  • cancer of the stomach and esophagus;

  • squamous cell cancer of the esophagus or head and neck;

  • bladder cancer;

  • liver cancer; or

  • colorectal cancer.

Opdivo is often given when the cancer has spread to other parts of the body (metastatic), or cannot be surgically removed, or has come back after prior treatment. Opdivo is sometimes given only if laboratory testing shows specific genetic markers or DNA mutations associated with your cancer.


Opdivo can cause side effects in many different parts of your body. Some side effects may need to be treated with other medicine, and your cancer treatments may be delayed.

Call your doctor at once if you have: a cough, shortness of breath, vision changes, muscle pain or weakness, stomach pain, diarrhea, blood in your stools, little or no urinating, bruising or bleeding, dark urine, yellowing of your skin or eyes, frequent headaches, dizziness, confusion, increased thirst or urination, skin problems, numbness or tingling, feeling cold, or weight gain or loss.

Before taking this medicine

To make sure Opdivo is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have:

Nivolumab may harm an unborn baby. You may need to have a negative pregnancy test before starting this treatment. Use effective birth control to prevent pregnancy while receiving Opdivo and for at least 5 months after your last dose. Tell your doctor if you become pregnant.

Do not breastfeed while using this medicine, and for at least 5 months after your last dose.

How is Opdivo given?

Opdivo is given as an infusion into a vein by a healthcare provider. This medicine must be given slowly, and the infusion can take 30 to 90 minutes to complete.

Opdivo is usually given once every 2 to 4 weeks. Your other cancer medicines may be given on different schedules. Your doctor will determine how long to treat you with all medicines.

You will need frequent medical tests to help your doctor determine if it is safe for you to keep receiving Opdivo.

Opdivo can cause side effects in many different parts of your body. You may be given medication to prevent certain side effects, and your cancer treatments may be delayed if you need treatment for a side effect.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Call your doctor for instructions if you miss a chemotherapy appointment.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.

What should I avoid while receiving Opdivo?

Follow your doctor's instructions about any restrictions on food, beverages, or activity.

Opdivo side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction to Opdivo (hives, difficult breathing, swelling in your face or throat) or a severe skin reaction (fever, sore throat, burning eyes, skin pain, red or purple skin rash with blistering and peeling).

Some side effects may occur during the injection. Tell your caregiver right away if you feel dizzy, light-headed, short of breath, itchy, or tingly, or if you have a fever, chills, back pain or neck pain.

Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • severe or ongoing diarrhea, severe stomach pain, bloody or tarry stools;

  • eye pain, vision changes, sensitivity to light;

  • severe muscle pain or weakness;

  • confusion, memory problems, neck stiffness, drowsiness, balance problems;

  • numbness or tingling in your arms or legs;

  • kidney problems - little or no urination, swelling in your feet or ankles, blood in your urine;

  • liver problems - severe nausea or vomiting, right-sided upper stomach pain, easy bruising or bleeding, dark urine, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes);

  • lung problems - new or worsening cough, chest pain, feeling short of breath;

  • skin problems - rash, itching, redness, swelling, pain, sores, blisters, sores in your mouth or nose or on your genitals;

  • signs of a hormonal disorder - frequent or unusual headaches, vision problems, fast heartbeats, dizziness, fainting, tiredness, mood or behavior changes, hunger, increased thirst or urination, constipation, hair loss, hoarse or deepened voice, sweating, feeling cold, weight gain or loss; or

  • (if you have had a stem cell transplant) feeling sick or uneasy, with pain or swelling near your transplanted organ.

Your cancer treatments may be delayed or permanently discontinued if you have certain side effects.

Common Opdivo side effects may include:

  • nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, loss of appetite, diarrhea, constipation;

  • mouth sores, altered sense of taste;

  • itching, rash, redness or blisters on your hands or feet;

  • hormonal problems;

  • liver problems;

  • numbness, tingling, or burning pain in your hands or feet;

  • fever, body aches;

  • feeling weak, tired, or short of breath;

  • cold symptoms such as runny or stuffy nose, cough, sore throat;

  • headache, dizziness, increased blood pressure; or

  • weight loss.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

What other drugs will affect Opdivo?

Other drugs may interact with nivolumab, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Tell your doctor about all your current medicines and any medicine you start or stop using.

Popular FAQ

Opdivo (nivolumab) is an immunotherapy used to treat a wide variety of cancer types. How long treatment with this monoclonal antibody prolongs or extends life depends on the type and stage of cancer it is used to treat and other factors. Continue reading

Results from clinical trial indicate that it can take about 2 months to see a response to treatment with Opdivo, but some patients will respond more quickly and others will take longer.

Your doctor will order periodic tests, such as CT (computed tomography) and PET (positron emission tomography) scans and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to see if you are responding to treatment. Continue reading

The key differences between Opdivo (nivolumab) and Keytruda (pembrolizumab) are seen in the dosing frequency, the drugs they are used in combination with and the types of cancer they have been approved for use in. Continue reading

Opdivo stays in your system for a very long time, up to 3 to 4 months (100 to 125 days). This is based on the half-life of Opdivo, which is 25 days. The half-life is the time it takes for half of a drug to be removed from the body, and experts have agreed it takes 4 to 5 half-lives for a drug to be completely removed from the body. This calculates out to 100 to 125 days for Opdivo. This means that side effects can still occur because of Opdivo a few months after you stop taking the drug. Continue reading

Opdivo (nivolumab) is an immunotherapy used to treat a variety of cancer types, including melanoma. Durable responses to treatment have been observed following discontinuation of Opdivo therapy. Continue reading

Opdivo is an immunotherapy treatment. It belongs to the class of medicines known as checkpoint inhibitors and works by blocking the PD-1 (programmed death receptor-1) pathway to help prevent cancer cells from hiding from the immune system, boosting the immune system's response against cancer. Continue reading

Opdivo and Yervoy are administered by slow intravenous infusion over at least 30 minutes – this is when a bag containing the medicine is hung from a stand, and the medicine runs through a piece of tubing called an intravenous line into your vein. This needs to be done in your doctor’s office, an infusion center, or a hospital. Continue reading

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Further information

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use Opdivo only for the indication prescribed.

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.