PURPOSE Treatment options are limited for patients with relapsed/refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL). Tumor cells can exploit the programmed death-1 checkpoint pathway to evade immune surveillance. In the current study, we evaluated the efficacy and safety of programmed death-1 blockade by nivolumab in patients with relapsed/refractory DLBCL. METHODS In this phase II, open-label study, patients with relapsed/refractory DLBCL who were ineligible for autologous hematopoietic cell transplantation (auto-HCT) or who had experienced failure with auto-HCT received nivolumab 3 mg/kg every 2 weeks. We assessed the efficacy and safety of nivolumab as well as genetic alterations of 9p24.1. RESULTS Among 121 treated patients, patients in the auto-HCT–failed cohort (n = 87) received a median of four nivolumab doses and a median of three doses were administered to those in the auto-HCT–ineligible cohort (n = 34). At a median follow-up of 9 months in the auto-HCT–failed cohort and 6 months in the auto-HCT–ineligible cohort, independently assessed objective response rates were 10% and 3%, and median durations of response were 11 and 8 months, respectively. Median progression-free survival and overall survival were 1.9 and 12.2 months in the auto-HCT–failed cohort and 1.4 and 5.8 months in the auto-HCT–ineligible cohort respectively. All three patients with complete remission—3% of the auto-HCT–failed cohort—had durable response (11 or more, 14 or more, and 17 months). Treatment-related grade 3 and 4 adverse events were reported in 24% of patients. The most common were neutropenia (4%), thrombocytopenia (3%), and increased lipase (3%). Of all evaluable samples for 9p24.1 analysis, 16% exhibited low-level copy gain and 3% had amplification. CONCLUSION Nivolumab monotherapy is associated with a favorable safety profile but a low overall response rate among patients with DLBCL who are ineligible for auto-HCT or who experienced failure with auto-HCT. Genetic alterations of 9p24.1 are infrequent in DLBCL.