Tecentriq (atezolizumab) is a type of immunotherapy used to treat certain types of cancers. It works by boosting the immune system, which then attacks cancer cells. Tecentriq has shown remarkable clinical trial results and is being praised as a potential game-changer in the cancer fight.
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In this article, we’ll look into Tecentriq in greater detail, including how it works and its potential benefits and risks.
What Is Tecentriq?
Tecentriq is an immunotherapy medicine that works with the body’s immune system to combat cancer cells. It is a monoclonal antibody that affects the activity of the immune system by blocking a specific protein (called PD L1) in cancer cells.
The FDA has approved Tecentriq for use in adults with several types of cancer (e.g., small cell lung cancer, bladder cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, melanoma, liver cancer, and others). Depending on the type and stage of the cancer being treated, Tecentriq is usually used with other medications or treatments.
What Is Tecentriq Used To Treat?
Tecentriq is an immunotherapy medication used to treat specific cancers. It is used to treat :
Urothelial carcinoma: This is the most common kind of bladder cancer. It is responsible for approximately 90% of all bladder cancers. It can also impact your kidneys and urethra in addition to your bladder. People with urothelial carcinoma can use Tecentriq if:
- They can’t take chemotherapy containing a medication called cisplatin, and their cancer has proteins called PD-L1.
- They can’t take chemotherapy-containing platinum-based medications.
Recently, the manufacturer of Tecentric announced they would remove this indication from the US package insert following a consultation with the FDA . But the indication remains for other countries.
Small cell lung cancer (SCLC): Tecentriq may be used to treat SCLC in combination with other medications, such as carboplatin and etoposide, as the first-line treatment.
Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC): NSCLC causes abnormal and rapid growth of certain lung cells. Tecentriq is approved to be used alone or together with other chemotherapy medications to treat patients with NSCLS who:
- Have previously received chemotherapy containing platinum-based medications, but their condition got worse.
- Have high levels of PD-L1 proteins in their cancer. In this case, Tecentriq is used as a first-line treatment.
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC): This is the most common form of liver cancer, accounting for over 90% of all cases. Tecentriq may be combined with another medicine called bevacizumab to treat HCC.
Melanoma: This is a type of skin cancer that has a higher probability of growth and spread. It can also cause problems with your eyes, throat, or the inside of your nose. Tecentriq may be used in conjunction with other medications to treat melanoma.
Alveolar soft part sarcoma (ASPS): This is a rare type of soft tissue tumor. Tecentriq is the first-ever therapy approved for ASPS . It may be used to treat ASPS in people whose cancer has progressed after chemotherapy.
Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC): In combination with other drugs, Tecentriq may be used to treat TNBC that has spread to other places of the body. But the drug manufacturer voluntarily removed this indication from the US market following discussions with the FDA . However, it is still indicated in the EU and some other countries.
How Does Tecentriq Work?
Tecentriq is a form of immunotherapy medication that boosts the body’s natural immune system to combat cancer cells. It is an antibody that binds to PD-L1, a protein that is present in many cancer cells.
PD-L1 stops immune cells from fighting cancer cells. Tecentriq attaches to this protein, weakening its effects and strengthening the immune system’s ability to combat cancer cells.
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Tecentriq is chemotherapy that works by increasing the immune system’s ability to combat cancer cells. Like any medicine, it can have side effects :
Mild Side Effects
- Decreased appetite
- Trouble breathing
The above side effects could last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. On the other hand, some side effects may last longer, become severe, or be unpleasant. Consult your doctor or pharmacist if you are concerned about the side effects of Tecentriq.
Serious Side Effects
Tecentriq can improve the immune system’s ability to fight cancer. But it can also trigger the immune system to attack healthy organs and tissues, leading to severe side effects. Although severe Tecentriq side effects are rare, they are possible. Here are some of the serious side effects:
- Liver problems: You can have liver problems such as hepatitis. Symptoms include yellowing of the skin or the whites of your eyes, stomach pain, and vomiting.
- Severe infusion reactions: You can have severe reactions during or after Tecentriq infusion, which can be fatal. Symptoms include chills, flushing, fever, trouble breathing, itching, or rash.
- Lung problems: Symptoms of lung problems include chest pain, coughing, and shortness of breath.
- Intestinal problems: Symptoms include diarrhea, stomach-area pain, and stools that are black or have blood.
- Kidney problems: Symptoms include bloody urine, loss of appetite, and swelling of the ankles.
Please note that the list of side effects provided is not comprehensive. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any severe side effects.
Make sure to tell your provider if you’re breastfeeding, pregnant, or thinking of getting pregnant before starting Tecentriq because it can cause severe and life-threatening harm to babies. Females of reproductive potential will need to use contraception (birth control) during treatment and for at least 5 months after the last dose. Additionally, females shouldn’t breastfeed or nurse their babies during and for at least 5 months after the last dose of Tecentriq.
Tecentriq Dosage and Treatment
The first dose of Tecentriq is administered intravenously over 60 minutes. If you can tolerate the first dose, then the next dosages can be given over 30 minutes.
The dose may differ depending on the type of cancer being treated as well as other personal factors such as age, weight, and overall health. Typically, your provider will start you on a low dose, then gradually adjust it to find the right amount for you. However, the recommended dose of Tecentriq is 840 mg every 2 weeks, 1,200 mg every 3 weeks, or 1,680 mg every 4 weeks .
Tecentriq intravenous solution 840 mg/14 ml costs about $7,450 . This means Tecentriq treatment costs around $14,900 per month. The actual cost, however, is determined by your location, insurance coverage, and treatment plan. Contact us if you are interested in receiving financial assistance for Tecentriq.
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Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about Tecentriq.
Is Tecentriq chemotherapy?
No. Although Tecentriq is used to treat certain types of cancers, it’s not considered a typical chemotherapy medication. It belongs to a class of medications known as immunotherapy drugs. It works by improving the immune system’s ability to recognize and attack cancer cells.
Does Tecentriq cure cancer?
No. Tecentriq can not cure your cancer. But it can make your situation much better. It can increase the length of time you live without your cancer worsening. Also, it may increase your overall survival rate and quality of life.
What are the clinical results of Tecentriq?
- Urothelial carcinoma (bladder cancer): According to the latest phase 3 trial, treatment with Tecentriq plus chemotherapy did not meet the coprimary endpoint of overall survival compared with chemotherapy alone .
- Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC): According to a study, Tecentriq can improve disease-free survival by about 7 months .
- Small cell lung cancer (SCLC): According to a trial, the medication improved overall survival in SCLC patients for the first time in two decades .
- Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC): According to a clinical trial, for the first time in 13 years, a new treatment (Tecentriq) improved overall survival and progression-free survival in HCC patients compared to the standard treatment .
- Melanoma: According to a clinical trial, Tecentriq combined with cobimetinib and vemurafenib improved progression-free survival in melanoma patients .
- Alveolar soft part sarcoma (ASPS): According to a trial led by the National Cancer Institute, Tecentriq helps shrink or stop tumors from growing in ASPS patients .
- Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC): According to a phase 3 trial, treatment with Tecentriq did not meet the primary endpoint of progression-free survival . Based on this trial, the indication of Tecentriq for TNBC was withdrawn from the US.
Does Tecentriq cause hair loss?
Yes. When combined with other cancer treatments, hair loss is a common side effect. Tecentriq may also cause hormonal issues, resulting in hair loss. You should talk to your provider about the possibility of hair loss and how to deal with it if it occurs.
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Dr. Robert Chad Hakim, PharmD, was born and raised in Northridge, CA. He received his pharmacy degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Pharmacy. The most rewarding part of his job is taking initiative to advance clinical programs that maximize impact on patient care. He has a board certification in critical care (BCCCP), and his areas of expertise are critical care, drug information, general medicine, and cardiology. In his free time, he enjoys traveling.