Nivolumab and pembrolizumab: Monoclonal antibodies against programmed cell death-1 (PD-1) that are interchangeable

Vinay Prasad, Victoria Kaestner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

31 Scopus citations


Nivolumab (Opdivo, Bristol Meyer Squibb, New York, NY) and pembrolizumab (Keytruda, Merck, Kenilworth, NJ) are the first two US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved monoclonal antibodies targeting programmed death-1 (PD-1). Nivolumab and pembrolizumab work by interfering with the interaction between PD-1 and programmed death ligand-1 (PD-L1), whose unimpeded interaction downregulates T cells allowing cancer cells to evade immune surveillance. These drugs have earned a series of FDA approvals for melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), head and neck squamous cell cancer (HNSCC), urothelial cancer, classical Hodgkin lymphoma, and renal cell cancer. In this review we will summarize the data for efficacy and toxicity for these two agents. We conclude that they represent two valuable but interchangeable alternatives to target their approved indications. We will discuss how this can help global payers seeking to contain the cost of cancer therapeutics that continues to spiral out of control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSeminars in Oncology
StateAccepted/In press - 2017



  • Drug manufacturing
  • Me-too drugs
  • Nivolumab
  • Pembrolizumab

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Oncology

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