Insights from a Genitourinary Cancer Specialist

Ulka Vaishampayan, MBBS, is a genitourinary cancer specialist and Professor of Internal Medicine within the Division of Hematology and Oncology at the University of Michigan

Meet Dr. Ulka Vaishampayan* – an oncologist and leading expert in treating people with kidney cancer, including renal cell carcinoma (RCC) which is the most common type of kidney cancer in adults.

She understands all too well how scary and overwhelming hearing the words “you have cancer” can be for anyone – especially when facing an advanced diagnosis in RCC. In these cases, Dr. Vaishampayan believes that information is power and people can feel better prepared to move forward if they have a support system and strong patient-doctor communication. 

On today’s episode of the Cancer Horizons podcast, Dr. Vaishampayan shares information that’s important to understand about RCC and navigating a diagnosis, key questions patients and caregivers should ask their doctor, and insights into a potential dual immunotherapy treatment option for certain patients.

When it comes to making a treatment plan, Dr. Vaishampayan believes in involving her patients closely in the process. “In my practice I tend to explain what options are available to someone, including the pros and cons of each, and I sometimes make a recommendation about a treatment approach if I feel that’s appropriate in their case,” she explains. “I would still explain the reasons for my choice. My intention is that either way it’s a discussion, as it should be a joint or shared decision-making process.”

Terry Broussard**, a man who was diagnosed with advanced RCC, also shares advice from his experience. In Terry’s case, his doctor recommended the dual immunotherapy treatment combination Opdivo® (nivolumab) plus Yervoy® (ipilimumab), which is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for certain newly diagnosed adults whose kidney cancer has spread (advanced renal cell carcinoma) and have not already had treatment for advanced RCC. It is the first and only combination of two immunotherapies of its kind approved to treat advanced kidney cancer, or RCC.

To learn more, listen to the podcast, visit and see below for Important Safety Information.

*Dr. Vaishampayan is a paid consultant of Bristol Myers Squibb. Dr. Vaishampayan’s statements/opinions are those solely of Dr. Vaishampayan and are not necessarily those of Bristol Myers Squibb. Individual results/experiences may vary.

**Terry is an actual patient who has been compensated by Bristol Myers Squibb. Terry’s results may not be typical. Medication may not work for everyone.


OPDIVO® (nivolumab) is a prescription medicine used in combination with YERVOY® (ipilimumab) to treat adults with kidney cancer in certain people when your cancer has spread (advanced renal cell carcinoma) and you have not already had treatment for your advanced RCC.

It is not known if OPDIVO is safe and effective in children younger than 12 years of age with melanoma or MSI-H or dMMR metastatic colorectal cancer.

It is not known if OPDIVO is safe and effective in children for the treatment of any other cancers.

OPDIVO (10 mg/mL) and YERVOY (5 mg/mL) are injections for intravenous (IV) use.

Important Safety Information for OPDIVO® (nivolumab) + YERVOY® (ipilimumab)

What is the most important information I should know about OPDIVO + YERVOY?
OPDIVO and YERVOY are medicines that may treat certain cancers by working with your immune system. OPDIVO and YERVOY can cause your immune system to attack normal organs and tissues in any area of your body and can affect the way they work. These problems can sometimes become severe or life-threatening and can lead to death. These problems may happen anytime during treatment or even after your treatment has ended. You may have more than one of these problems at the same time. Some of these problems may happen more often when OPDIVO is used in combination with another therapy.

Call or see your healthcare provider right away if you develop any new or worse signs or symptoms, including:

  • Lung problems: new or worsening cough; shortness of breath; chest pain
  • Intestinal problems: diarrhea (loose stools) or more frequent bowel movements than usual; stools that are black, tarry, sticky, or have blood or mucus; severe stomach-area (abdominal) pain or tenderness
  • Liver problems: yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes; severe nausea or vomiting; pain on the right side of your stomach area (abdomen); dark urine (tea colored); bleeding or bruising more easily than normal
  • Hormone gland problems: headaches that will not go away or unusual headaches; eye sensitivity to light; eye problems; rapid heart beat; increased sweating; extreme tiredness; weight gain or weight loss; feeling more hungry or thirsty than usual; urinating more often than usual; hair loss; feeling cold; constipation; your voice gets deeper; dizziness or fainting; changes in mood or behavior, such as decreased sex drive, irritability, or forgetfulness
  • Kidney problems: decrease in your amount of urine; blood in your urine; swelling in your ankles; loss of appetite
  • Skin problems: rash; itching; skin blistering or peeling; painful sores or ulcers in the mouth or nose, throat, or genital area
  • Eye problems: blurry vision, double vision, or other vision problems; eye pain or redness.

Problems can also happen in other organs and tissues. These are not all of the signs and symptoms of immune system problems that can happen with OPDIVO and YERVOY. Call or see your healthcare provider right away for any new or worsening signs or symptoms, which may include:

  • Chest pain; irregular heartbeat; shortness of breath; swelling of ankles
  • Confusion; sleepiness; memory problems; changes in mood or behavior; stiff neck; balance problems; tingling or numbness of the arms or legs
  • Double vision; blurry vision; sensitivity to light; eye pain; changes in eye sight
  • Persistent or severe muscle pain or weakness; muscle cramps
  • Low red blood cells; bruising

Getting medical help right away may help keep these problems from becoming more serious. Your healthcare team will check you for these problems during treatment and may treat you with corticosteroid or hormone replacement medicines. Your healthcare team may also need to delay or completely stop your treatment if you have severe side effects.

Possible side effects of OPDIVO + YERVOY

OPDIVO and OPDIVO + YERVOY can cause serious side effects, including:

  • See “What is the most important information I should know about OPDIVO + YERVOY?”
  • Severe infusion reactions. Tell your healthcare team right away if you get these symptoms during an infusion of OPDIVO or YERVOY: chills or shaking; itching or rash; flushing; shortness of breath or wheezing; dizziness; feel like passing out; fever; back or neck pain
  • Complications, including graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), of bone marrow (stem cell) transplant that uses donor stem cells (allogeneic). These complications can be severe and can lead to death. These complications may happen if you underwent transplantation either before or after being treated with OPDIVO or YERVOY. Your healthcare provider will monitor you for these complications.

The most common side effects of OPDIVO, when used in combination with YERVOY, include: feeling tired; diarrhea; rash; itching; nausea; pain in muscles, bones, and joints; fever; cough; decreased appetite; vomiting; stomach-area (abdominal) pain; shortness of breath; upper respiratory tract infection; headache; low thyroid hormone levels (hypothyroidism); constipation; decreased weight; and dizziness.

These are not all the possible side effects. For more information, ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist. You are encouraged to report side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Call 1-800-FDA-1088.

Before receiving OPDIVO or YERVOY, tell your healthcare provider about all of your medical conditions, including if you:

  • have immune system problems such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or lupus
  • have received an organ transplant
  • have received or plan to receive a stem cell transplant that uses donor stem cells (allogeneic)
  • have received radiation treatment to your chest area in the past and have received other medicines that are like OPDIVO
  • have a condition that affects your nervous system, such as myasthenia gravis or Guillain-Barré syndrome
  • are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. OPDIVO and YERVOY can harm your unborn baby.
  • are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. It is not known if OPDIVO or YERVOY passes into your breast milk. Do not breastfeed during treatment with OPDIVO or YERVOY and for 5 months after the last dose of OPDIVO or YERVOY.

Females who are able to become pregnant:

Your healthcare provider should do a pregnancy test before you start receiving OPDIVO or YERVOY.

  • You should use an effective method of birth control during your treatment and for 5 months after the last dose of OPDIVO or YERVOY. Talk to your healthcare provider about birth control methods that you can use during this time.
  • Tell your healthcare provider right away if you become pregnant or think you may be pregnant during treatment with OPDIVO or YERVOY. You or your healthcare provider should contact Bristol-Myers Squibb at 1- 844-593-7869 as soon as you become aware of a pregnancy.

Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription and over-the- counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

Please see U.S. Full Prescribing Information and Medication Guide for OPDIVO and YERVOY.

© 2023 Bristol-Myers Squibb Company.

OPDIVO®, YERVOY® and the related logos are registered trademarks of Bristol-Myers Squibb Company.

1506-US-2300245 11/23

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