Ipilimumab for Advanced Melanoma: A Nursing Perspective

Blanca Ledezma

ONF 2009, 36(1), 97-104. DOI: 10.1188/09.ONF.97-104

Purpose/Objectives: To discuss the response patterns and side effects related to ipilimumab, a new immunotherapeutic agent under investigation in the treatment of advanced melanoma and other malignancies.

Data Sources: Published articles, abstracts, research data, and clinical experience.

Data Synthesis: Ipilimumab is a fully human monoclonal antibody that inhibits the activity of cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen-4 (CTLA-4), a naturally immunosuppressive molecule. The most common side effects are immune mediated (e.g., inflammatory diarrhea, pruritis) and appear to occur as a direct result of CTLA-4 inhibition and enhanced immune system activation. Side effects generally are grade I or II and resolve with standard treatments. Most grade III or IV events are managed successfully after swift diagnosis and treatment with corticosteroids; steroid-refractory events resolve after treatment with infliximab or mycophenolate.

Conclusions: The response patterns and side effects associated with ipilimumab therapy greatly differ from those common to other advanced melanoma therapies (e.g., chemotherapy, cytokines, vaccines).

Implications for Nursing: Nurses have an important role in educating patients about the differences between anti-CTLA-4 therapy and chemotherapy. In addition, teaching patients to recognize ipilimumab's side effects and report them early can result in fast treatment to prevent symptom progression from grade I or II to III or IV. Communication between nurses and patients throughout the treatment process will help patients benefit maximally from the new therapeutic strategy.

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