In October 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a combination of two immunotherapy drugs – Opdivo and Yervoy – for use on patients with mesothelioma cancer. This breakthrough announcement means patients may have more options to live longer. Find all that you need to know below about this new mesothelioma treatment.

What Is the New Mesothelioma Treatment the FDA Approved?

The FDA recently cleared Opdivo (generically known as nivolumab) and Yervoy (generic name ipilimumab) for treating malignant pleural mesothelioma that cannot be removed via surgery.

The FDA granted approval to Bristol Myers Squibb, the company that makes both drugs, on October 2, 2020. Analysts believe that the drug combination will become available to mesothelioma patients in the coming months.

Both drugs are classified as immunotherapy treatments, which help the patient’s immune system better identify and attack cancer cells.

Why Is the Approval Such Major News?

The approval of Opdivo and Yervoy as a mesothelioma treatment is very important for medical professionals and for those living with the disease for several reasons.

  1. The drug combination is the first new mesothelioma treatment approved by the FDA in 16 years. Prior to this, only a combination of two chemotherapy drugs (pemetrexed and cisplatin) had been approved.
  2. Opdivo and Yervoy are the first immunotherapy treatments that the FDA has approved for any type of mesothelioma.
  3. Researchers believe that this approval can spark new leads and help develop more new mesothelioma treatment options.

The FDA also approved the drug combination five months ahead of schedule, and during the coronavirus pandemic. This shows that federal regulators are confident in the results they evaluated during the treatment’s phase III clinical trials. They are prepared for this new mesothelioma treatment to reach the general public.

How This New Mesothelioma Treatment Helps Patients

Opdivo and Yervoy:

  • Can improve patient lifespans — in a clinical trial cited by the FDA, those who were treated with Opdivo and Yervoy lived four months longer than those treated with chemotherapy.
  • Offer another mesothelioma treatment option outside of surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy, which are the most commonly used therapies to help patients live longer.
  • May come with less side effects – mesothelioma immunotherapy is also more targeted than chemotherapy, so patients may be better able to tolerate any side effects they do experience.

When Will This Treatment Become Available?

The Opdivo and Yervoy drug combination is expected to become available to mesothelioma patients in a few months. Medical professionals will still need to evaluate their patients to see if they are a candidate for the treatment.

The FDA approved the drug treatment for patients with pleural mesothelioma that is unresectable, meaning the cancer cannot be removed by surgery. That indicates that not all mesothelioma patients will be eligible to be treated with this drug combination.

Check with your doctor to see if you can access this new mesothelioma treatment when it becomes available.

Learn More About Treatment Options For Mesothelioma Patients

The approval of Opdivo and Yervoy by the FDA as a new mesothelioma treatment is a promising step. Patients who are treated with the new drug combination are expected to have longer lifespans and fewer side effects.

If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma. Opdivo and Yervoy could be the best option for your mesothelioma treatment. However, not every mesothelioma patient can be treated with Opdivo and Yervoy.

Fortunately, our team can help. We have relationships with some of the world’s best mesothelioma doctors and may be able to help you access top treatments. Our team also has a registered nurse on staff to answer your mesothelioma-related questions. Contact us to learn more.

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Laura WrightWritten by:

Lead Editor

Laura Wright is a journalist and content strategist with more than 15 years of professional experience. She attended college at the University of Florida, graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2008. Her writing has been featured in The Gainesville Sun and other regional publications throughout Florida.

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  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (October 2, 2020). FDA Approves Drug Combination for Treating Mesothelioma. Retrieved October 13, 2020, from

  2. Bristol Myers Squibb. (n.d.). How Combination Therapy Works: OPDIVO® (nivolumab) + YERVOY® (ipilimumab). Retrieved October 13, 2020, from

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