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Imfinzi (durvalumab)

What is Imfinzi?

Some patients with advanced or metastatic bladder cancer may be treated with the immunotherapy drug Imfinzi TM (durvalumab).1 Durvalumab was approved for treating advanced or metastatic bladder cancer in 2017 by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Durvalumab is given to patients through an intravenous (IV) infusion, and each infusion typically lasts for about one hour. Most patients receive treatment every two weeks.

How does it work?

Durvalumab is a type of immunotherapy drug called a PD-L1 inhibitor.1,2,3 Immunotherapy drugs work by affecting the way a patient’s immune system works in order to help the body fight cancer cells. The body’s immune system is a group of organs and cells that work together to help fight off cancer cells and other types of infections and diseases.

PD-L1 inhibitor drugs, such as durvalumab, are a type of treatment for advanced or metastatic bladder cancer. PD-L1 is a type of protein found on certain cancer cells in the body. PD-L1 proteins can enable cancer cells to “hide” from the immune system, which prevents the immune system from attacking the cancer cells as they usually would. Durvalumab helps block the PD-L1 proteins on cancer cells so that the body’s immune system is better able to seek out and attack the cancer cells.

Before starting treatment with durvalumab, some healthcare providers may recommend that a patient is tested to determine the level of PD-L1 proteins that are present in or around the patient’s bladder tumor(s). This can help the healthcare provider recommend whether or not treatment with durvalumab is potentially likely to be effective against the patient’s specific type of bladder cancer.

When durvalumab was tested in clinical trials with patients who had advanced or metastatic bladder cancer, some patients’ tumors got smaller after treatment. Durvalumab is still being studied to understand more about how it works and how effective it is.

Who can receive durvalumab?

In patients with advanced or metastatic bladder cancer, the tumor often cannot be treated with surgery and/or the bladder cancer cells have spread beyond the bladder to other parts of the body.1,3 Durvalumab is only utilized for treating patients with advanced or metastatic bladder cancer who have tried treatment with chemotherapy that contains platinum, but the treatment did not work or stopped working. If you have advanced or metastatic bladder cancer, your healthcare provider will be able to provide more information about whether treatment with durvalumab may be appropriate for you.

Patients with advanced or metastatic bladder cancer who are being treated for an infection may not be able to take durvalumab. Before prescribing durvalumab, your healthcare provider will need to know if you:

  • Have immune system problems, including Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or lupus
  • Have lung or breathing problems
  • Have liver or kidney problems
  • Have ever had an organ transplant
  • Have endocrine disorders such as diabetes or thyroid disorders
  • Are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding

Treatment with durvalumab may cause fetal harm. Women who are able to become pregnant should use effective birth control during durvalumab treatment and for at least three months after the last dose of durvalumab.

What are the possible side effects?

In patients being treated with durvalumab for advanced or metastatic bladder cancer, the most common side effects are 3:

Durvalumab treats bladder cancer by affecting cancer cells, but it can also affect healthy cells and can cause some very serious side effects. Your healthcare provider will talk with you about the signs and symptoms of those serious side effects, which include:

  • Lung problems
  • Liver problems
  • Intestinal problems
  • Hormone gland problems
  • Kidney problems
  • Skin problems
  • Severe infections
  • Severe infusion reactions

Contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible if you experience any symptoms of serious side effects that can be caused by durvalumab. This is not an exhaustive list of all potential side effects of durvalumab. Talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist for further information.

Written by Anna Nicholson | Last review date: July 2019.
  1. Imfinzi. https://www.imfinzi.com/. Accessed September 2017.
  2. FDA Approves Imfinzi (Durvalumab) for Bladder Cancer. https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/fda-approves-imfinzi-durvalumab-for-bladder-cancer.html. Accessed September 2017.
  3. IMFINZI prescribing information. AstraZeneca, May 2017.