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Opdivo (nivolumab) for kidney cancer

Opdivo is a medication used to treat previously treated patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma (RCC).

Dosage:  240 mg administered as an intravenous infusion over 60 minutes every 2 weeks or 480 mg every 4 weeks.

Route of Administration: Nivolumab is given as an IV infusion by a healthcare provider in a clinic or medical office.

Schedule:  It is usually given every two to four weeks, but the schedule can vary.

How long should I take Nivolumab?

  • Your doctor will determine how long to treat you with Nivolumab. Most of the Nivolumab clinical trials treated patients for two years.
  • Nivolumab can cause certain side effects by enhancing how your immune system works. This can cause symptoms to occur in any body system which may need to be treated. This could delay or stop your treatment with Nivolumab.
  • You will need frequent medical tests to help your doctor determine if it is safe for you to continue receiving Nivolumab.

Dietary restrictions: Follow your doctor’s instructions about any restrictions of food, beverages, medications or activities

I should tell my healthcare provider if  have:

  • Lung disease or breathing problems
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • A thyroid disorder
  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome
  • An autoimmune disorder such as lupus, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Received an organ transplant.

For females, tell your doctor if you:

  • Are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Taking Nivolumab during pregnancy may cause harm to the unborn baby. You should not become pregnant while you are taking Nivolumab. Use effective birth control to prevent pregnancy while using this medicine and for at least 5 months after your last dose. Talk to your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.
  • Are breast-feeding or plan to breast-feed. It is not known if Nivolumab passes into your breast milk. You should not breast-feed while taking this medicine.

Tell your healthcare provider about all the medications you take (including prescription and non-prescription medicine, vitamins, and herbal supplements) before starting treatment, and also before you add any new medication. Your treatment may affect the way other medicines work and other medicines may affect how Nivolumab works.

Know the medicines you take. Keep a list of them to show your doctor and pharmacist and update the list when you add a new medicine.

What are the possible side effects of Nivolumab?

Common side effects of Nivolumab include:

  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • rash, itchy skin
  • fatigue-feeling tired
  • pain in muscles or joints
  • shortness of breath
  • fever
  • nausea

These are not all of the possible side effects of Nivolumab. Talk to your healthcare team for more information.

Call your provider and healthcare team at once if you experience any new symptoms.

Nivolumab may cause serious side effects. A serious side effect is a side effect that can sometimes become life-threatening. They can happen anytime during treatment or even after your treatment has ended. 

Serious side effects may include:

  • Lung problems (pneumonitis): cough, chest pain, shortness of breath.
  • Intestinal problems (colitis): diarrhea, blood or mucus in your stools, severe stomach (abdominal) pain, weight loss
  • Liver problems (hepatitis): nausea and vomiting, right sided pain, dark urine, yellow skin or eyes, decreased appetite, fatigue, easy bruising or bleeding (labs are checked frequently and will usually show liver problems before symptoms are experienced).
  • Hormone gland problems (especially thyroid, pituitary, adrenal, and pancreas): headaches, extreme tiredness, weight changes, dizziness, mood changes, hair loss, feeling cold, changes in voice (gets deeper), frequent urination or increase thirst (if blood sugar is high), mood changes.
  • Kidney problems (nephritis and kidney failure): decrease in amount of urine, blood in your urine, swelling in ankles, loss of appetite.
  • Skin problems: rash, itching, skin blistering, mouth sores, throat soreness.
  • Inflammation of the brain (encephalitis): headache, fever, weakness, confusion, memory problems, sleepiness, hallucinations, seizures, stiff neck.
  • Problems in other organs: changes in eyesight, severe muscle or joint pain, severe muscle weakness, numbness or tingling in hands/feet.
  • Infusion reaction: fever, chills, rash, itching, skin flushing, trouble breathing, feeling faint or dizzy.

Call your healthcare team immediately if you have any new symptoms.

General information about Nivolumab: This patient information sheet summarizes the most important information about Nivolumab. If you would like more information, talk with your doctor. Your healthcare provider is the best source of information about your health.

Patient Assistance Program:  Access Support is a reimbursement program from the company that markets Opdivo, Bristol-Myers Squibb. To enroll, speak to your healthcare provider, or go to 1-800-861-0048, 8AM to 8PM ET Monday -Friday

Resources:  OpdivoTM Patient Call Center 1-855-OPDIVO-1 (1-855-673-4861) 8AM to 8PM ET Monday –Friday.


Adapted from the OpdivoTM (nivolumab) package insert. Bristol-Myers Squibb, January 2021. 

KCA disclaimer statement:  you should rely primarily upon your doctor for medical information.