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What Is in Yervoy?

A healthcare provider may prescribe Yervoy™ (ipilimumab) to help improve survival in adults with advanced melanoma skin cancer. But what is in Yervoy and how does it work?
 
Yervoy belongs to a group of medicines called monoclonal antibodies. An antibody is a protein made by the immune system. Antibodies bind to substances in the body called antigens. Yervoy is a synthetic antibody that binds to and blocks the actions of an antigen called the cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen 4 (CTLA-4).
 
CTLA-4 normally inhibits T cells, a type of white blood cell that protects the body against disease by destroying infected cells, including cancer cells. By inhibiting T cells, CTLA-4 slows down the immune system's ability to attack cancerous cells. When CTLA-4 is blocked by Yervoy, T cells increase in numbers and become active, giving the body a better chance at fighting melanoma cancer cells.
 
(For more information, click Yervoy. This full-length article offers a complete overview of this prescription medicine, including dosing instructions, possible side effects, and general safety precautions.)
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