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Tecentriq (atezolizumab)

Tecentriq® (atezolizumab) is a treatment option for some patients with advanced or metastatic bladder cancer.1 It was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating advanced or metastatic bladder cancer in 2016. Patients receive atezolizumab intravenously through an IV line that infuses medicine directly into a vein. There are typically two to four weeks between treatments with atezolizumab, depending on the patient’s dosing schedule, and each infusion usually takes between 30 and 60 minutes.

How does atezolizumab work?

Atezolizumab is an immunotherapy drug for treating advanced or metastatic bladder cancer.1-3 Immunotherapy is a type of treatment that helps enable the patient’s immune system to fight cancer. The main function of the immune system is to help protect the body from infections and diseases, as well as cancer cells.

What is a PD-L1 inhibitor?

Atezolizumab is a type of immunotherapy called a PD-L1 inhibitor. It works by blocking a certain kind of protein—called PDL1—which is located on many cells in the body, including cancer cells. When PDL1 proteins on cancer cells attach to other kinds of proteins on immune system cells, it can prevent the body’s immune system from being able to target and kill the cancer cells. When atezolizumab blocks PD-L1 proteins, it can help the body’s immune system to target and fight cancer cells more effectively.

During the clinical trials to investigate the effect of atezolizumab treatment for advanced or metastatic bladder cancer, it had the effect of reducing the size of some patients’ tumors.

Who can take atezolizumab?

Atezolizumab is only used to treat patients with bladder cancer that is advanced or metastatic, which means that the bladder cancer cells have spread beyond the bladder and potentially to other parts of the body.1,2 Healthcare providers can provide more information about whether atezolizumab can be used to treat a specific patient’s bladder cancer, but it is typically used to treat patients whose bladder cancer has spread or cannot be removed by surgery. It may be prescribed for patients who cannot have chemotherapy that contains a medicine called cisplatin or for patients who have been treated with chemotherapy that contains platinum, but the treatment did not work well enough or stopped working. Atezolizumab may also be used for patients with advanced or metastatic bladder cancer who are unable to receive any platinum containing chemotherapy.

When atezolizumab may not be appropriate

Treatment with atezolizumab may not be appropriate for bladder cancer patients who are being treated for infections or who also have other types of conditions, including:

  • Immune system problems (including Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or lupus)
  • Lung or breathing problems
  • Liver problems
  • Nervous system problems
  • Endocrine disorders such as diabetes or thyroid disorders

Women who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding should tell their healthcare providers because atezolizumab may cause fetal harm. Women who are able to become pregnant should use effective birth control during atezolizumab treatment and for at least five months after the last dose of atezolizumab (patients should discuss appropriate birth control methods with their doctor).

Patients receiving atezolizumab should talk to their doctor about other medications, herbal remedies, and any supplements they are taking, as well as any other health conditions.

What are the possible side effects of atezolizumab?

In patients being treated with atezolizumab for advanced or metastatic bladder cancer, the most common side effects include 1,2:

Because atezolizumab may also affect the way that healthy cells function, as well as cancer cells, it can cause some very serious side effects. These include:

  • Lung problems
  • Liver problems
  • Intestinal problems
  • Hormone gland problems
  • Nervous system problems
  • Eye inflammation
  • Severe infections
  • Severe infusion reactions

If you are being treated with atezolizumab, your healthcare provider will tell you about the signs and symptoms of these serious side effects. It is very important to contact your healthcare provider right away if you experience any symptoms of these serious side effects during or after treatment with atezolizumab. This is not an exhaustive list of all potential side effects of atezolizumab. Talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist for further information.

Written by Anna Nicholson | Last review date: January 2020.
  1. Tecentriq. Accessed September 2017.
  2. TECENTRIQ. Prescribing Information. Genentech, Inc. April 2017.
  3. FDA approves new, targeted treatment for bladder cancer. FDA. May 2016.