Immunotherapy for Colorectal Cancer

Immunotherapy works with the body’s immune system to find, attack, and kill cancer cells. These drugs can work in different ways. Some boost the immune system, so it can fight cancer better. Others help the immune system better recognize cancer cells. Immunotherapy is usually given to a small number of patients with metastatic colorectal cancer. In this case, their cancer has a biomarker known as deficient mismatch repair or MSI-high.

These are the latest immunotherapy drugs approved to treat colorectal cancer (CRC). New treatments become available all the time, so this may not be a complete list. 

Please note: The side effects listed here do not represent a comprehensive list. It's important to discuss all potential side effects of a drug with your healthcare team. Be sure to tell your healthcare team about any side effects you do have.

Search by Drug Name

IV (through a vein) =      Pill =

Treatment Type

Immune Checkpoint Inhibitor

Drug Name
Keytruda® (pembrolizumab) (IV)
Important Things to Know

This treatment can be used alone or in combination with other chemotherapies to treat CRC.

Treatment Type

Immune Checkpoint Inhibitor & Monoclonal Antibody

Drug Name
Opdivo® (nivolumab) (IV)
Important Things to Know
  • This medication is used to treat CRC in adults and children aged 12 years and older. 
  • This medication can be used alone or with ipilimumab (Yervoy®) to treat MSI-H or dMMR cancer that has spread or gotten worse after other treatments. 

Treatment Type

Monoclonal Antibody

Drug Name
Yervoy® (ipilimumab) (IV)
Potential Side Effects
Joint pain/stiffness
Important Things to Know
  • This medication can be used in combination with nivolumab to treat CRC.
  • This medication may lead to difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep (insomnia).

Treatment Type

VEGF Inhibitor

Drug Name
Avastin® (bevacizumab) (IV)
Important Things to Know
  • Avastin is approved for use to treat colorectal cancer that has spread to other parts of the body (metastasized) when used with chemotherapies. 
  • This medication can cause fetal harm - Avastin may cause bleeding, especially nose bleeds, and headaches 
  • Avastin is a biologic drug, biosimilar drugs may be available.