Nivolumab and pembrolizumab as immune-modulating monoclonal antibodies targeting the PD-1 receptor to treat melanoma

Expert Rev Anticancer Ther. 2015;15(9):981-93. doi: 10.1586/14737140.2015.1074862. Epub 2015 Jul 30.


Malignant melanoma is an important issue in oncology due to its high incidence, high mortality, and resistance to systemic therapy; however, targeted immunotherapy has noticeably improved the survival rates of melanoma patients. Promising targeted immunotherapies for malignant melanoma include the blockade of immune checkpoints with antibodies targeting cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen 4 and the programmed cell death protein 1 pathway. The US FDA-approved antibody ipilimumab targets cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen 4; however, it was limited by toxicity and a low response. Nivolumab and pembrolizumab (formerly lambrolizumab), the two FDA-approved anti-programmed death-1 monoclonal antibodies, show highly durable response rates and long-term safety, validating the importance of the programmed cell death protein 1 pathway blockade for treatment of malignant melanoma.

Keywords: PD-1 receptor; melanoma; monoclonal antibody; nivolumab; pembrolizumab.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / adverse effects
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / pharmacology*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / adverse effects
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / pharmacology*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / therapeutic use
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / methods
  • Melanoma / drug therapy*
  • Melanoma / immunology
  • Nivolumab
  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Receptor / immunology
  • Skin Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Skin Neoplasms / immunology
  • Survival Rate


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Receptor
  • Nivolumab
  • pembrolizumab