Ipilimumab, sold under the brand name Yervoy, is a monoclonal antibody medication that works to activate the immune system by targeting CTLA-4, a protein receptor that downregulates the immune system.
Cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) can recognize and destroy cancer cells. However, an inhibitory mechanism interrupts this destruction. Ipilimumab turns off this inhibitory mechanism and boosts the body’s immune response against cancer cells.
Ipilimumab was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in March 2011, for the treatment of melanoma, a type of skin cancer. It is undergoing clinical trials for the treatment of non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC), small cell lung cancer (SCLC), bladder cancer and metastatic hormone-refractory prostate cancer.