Treatment and side effect management of CTLA-4 antibody therapy in metastatic melanoma

J Dtsch Dermatol Ges. 2011 Apr;9(4):277-86. doi: 10.1111/j.1610-0387.2010.07568.x. Epub 2010 Nov 17.
[Article in English, German]


Immune-modifying monoclonal antibodies may induce or enhance the natural immune response against tumor cells. The complex interaction between antigen-presenting cells and T lymphocytes as an immune response is strongly affected by anti-CD152 (CTLA-4)-antibodies. The cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTLA-4) receptor binds molecules of the B7-family which leads to a suppression of T cells. Specific CTLA-4 antibodies induce an unrestrained T-cell activation. Treatment with the CTLA-4 antibodies ipilimumab and tremelimumab has been investigated in metastatic melanoma only within clinical trials. Currently, the critical phase III trial on ipilimumab is in the final analysis process and expected to lead to approval. CTLA-4 antibodies belong to the most promising new molecules for the treatment of advanced melanoma. During treatment with CTLA-4 antibodies, distinct adverse events may occur. Treating physicians must be familiar with their appropriate treatment and prophylaxis. The most frequently observed side effects are diseases such as an autoimmune colitis which is typically characterized by a mild to moderate, but occasionally also severe and persistent diarrhea. Other autoimmune-mediated side effects like hypophysitis, hepatitis, iridocyclitis or an exacerbation of lupus nephritis have been reported in the literature. Their early recognition and treatment are mandatory to reduce the risk of sequelae for CTLA-4-antibod-treated patients. Autoimmune-mediated side effects are reported to correlate positively with treatment response. We review the mechanisms of action, provide an update on clinical trials with the two CTLA-4-antibodies for metastatic melanoma, and present detailed recommendations for managing the side effects of these new agents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / adverse effects*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / immunology
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use*
  • Antigens, CD / drug effects*
  • Antigens, CD / immunology
  • CTLA-4 Antigen
  • Humans
  • Melanoma / drug therapy*
  • Melanoma / immunology
  • Melanoma / secondary*
  • Models, Immunological
  • Skin Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Skin Neoplasms / immunology
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antigens, CD
  • CTLA-4 Antigen
  • CTLA4 protein, human