Nivolumab + Ipilimumab combination treatment improved overall survival of melanoma patients- but increased risk of toxicity

A new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine today showed that patients with advanced melanoma may experience significantly longer overall survival when treated with a combination of nivolumab + ipilimumab compared to ipilimumab on its own.

The trial involved 945 patients with unresectable stage III or IV melanoma across 21 countries. The patient randomly received either:

  1. Nivolumab (1mg/kg) + Ipilimumab (3mg/kg) every 3 weeks for four doses followed by nivolumab at 3 mg/kg every 2 weeks (n = 314)
  2. Nivolumab (3mg/kg) + placebo every 2 weeks (n=316)
  3. Ipilimumab (3mg/kg) + placebo every 3 weeks (n=315)

The overall survival rate at 3 years was 58% for the group treated with Nivolumab + Ipilimumab, and 52% for the group treated with Nivolumab alone. The group treated with Ipilumab alone had an overall survival rate at 3 years of only 34%.

It’s also worth noting that even though the combination therapy was more effective in increasing overall survival, the study also reported that it is associated with greater side effects than nivolumab or ipilimumab alone. Grade* 3 (severe) or 4 (life threatening) adverse events occurred in 59% of the combination group, 21% of the nivolumab group, and 28% of the ipilimumab group.

*The severity of adverse events was graded according to the National Cancer Institute Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events, version 4.0. 

Link to the study:


About Rina Soetanto

Rina Soetanto is currently doing her PhD in molecular biology. She also has an extensive background in pharmacology and pre-clinical cancer research, as well as an undergraduate science degree from the Australian National University with a double major in neuroscience and immunology.

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