The drug nivolumab (trade name: Opdivo) has been approved in Germany since November 2016 for the treatment of Hodgkin's lymphoma. It is a treatment option for adults if their cancer returns after stem cell transplantation and antibody treatment with brentuximab vedotin, or if these treatments were not effective enough.

The name “Hodgkin’s lymphoma” is used to describe a whole group of lymphatic system cancers caused by the uncontrolled growth of mutated white blood cells (lymphocytes). These lymphocytes can spread through the body via lymph vessels. Early symptoms of Hodgkin's lymphoma may include constantly swollen lymph nodes. If this type of cancer reaches an advanced stage, it may also spread to organs such as the liver, spleen or bone marrow.

The aim of treatment with nivolumab is to stimulate the immune system to fight the cancer.


Nivolumab is given every two weeks in the form of an infusion (an IV drip), entering the bloodstream directly through a vein. The infusion takes about 60 minutes. The exact dose is determined by the patient's body weight.

Treatment is stopped if the disease gets worse or if very severe side effects arise.

Other treatments

If Hodgkin's lymphoma returns after stem cell transplantation, one option may be another stem cell transplantation.

If that can’t be done, further treatment will depend on factors such as the previous treatments tried. It is individually modified by the doctor.


In 2017, the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany) wanted to find out whether nivolumab has any advantages or disadvantages for people with Hodgkin's lymphoma when compared with the current standard treatments.

But the manufacturer did not provide any suitable data with which to do the assessment.

More information

This information summarizes the main results of a review produced by the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany). The review was commissioned by the German Federal Joint Committee (G-BA) as part of the “early benefit assessment of medications.” On the basis of the review and the hearings received, the G-BA passed a resolution on the added benefit of nivolumab (Opdivo).