FDA Approves Immunotherapy for Breast Cancer

The US Food and Drug Administration today approved the first immunotherapy treatment for breast cancer. It approved a combination of Tecentriq (atezolizumab) and Abraxane (nab-paclitaxel) for people with advanced triple negative breast cancer. This is significant because there are few treatments available for this type of breast cancer, and it tends to grow and spread faster than other types.

Tecentriq works by blocking PD-L1, a protein on some cancer cells that prevents the immune system from attacking them. Abraxane is a type of chemotherapy. The drug combination is approved for people with TNBC that test positive for the PD-L1 protein.

The FDA based its decision on a study of 902 women that showed improvement in 2 areas with the new treatment. One was how long a patient lives after they start treatment without the tumor getting worse, called progression-free survival. The other area that showed improvement was how long a patient lives after treatment starts, called overall survival.

Some of the most common side effects were nausea, peripheral neuropathy, low blood counts, and fatigue.

Tecentriq is already approved for treatment of a certain type of bladder cancer (urothelial cancer) and non-small cell lung cancer.

The FDA approved this treatment for breast cancer under its accelerated program for drugs that show promise against a serious disease. The company that makes the drug must still submit more clinical information after this approval, to show its continued benefit.

Tecentriq is marketed by F. Hoffmann-La Roche/Genentech.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

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