The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the immunotherapy drug Tecentriq (atezolizumab) for the treatment of small cell lung cancer (SCLC). It’s the second immunotherapy drug approved for people with advanced SCLC, but the first approved for use as part of the initial (first-line) treatment. It’s to be used along with chemotherapy for SCLC that has not already been treated with other drugs.
About 10% to 15% of lung cancers are small cell lung cancer. This type of cancer is often advanced when it’s first found, and patients with this cancer typically don’t have many treatment options. What’s more, very few new drugs have been approved to treat SCLC over the past 20 years.
Tecentriq is a type of drug called a checkpoint inhibitor. It works by blocking PD-L1, a protein on some cancer cells that prevents the immune system from attacking them. It’s already approved to treat people with non-small cell lung cancer, bladder cancer, and triple-negative breast cancer.
The FDA based this latest approval on a clinical trial of 403 people that focused mainly on overall survival – how long patients lived after starting treatment. Half the patients received Tecentriq along with the standard chemotherapy drugs carboplatin and etoposide, and the other half received a placebo, carboplatin, and etoposide. After an average follow-up period of about 14 months, average survival was 12.3 months in the Tecentriq group compared with 10.3 months in the placebo group.
The study also measured progression-free survival, which is how long patients lived without their cancer getting worse. Progression-free survival was 5.2 months in the Tecentriq group compared with 4.3 months in the placebo group.
Some of the most common side effects of Tecentriq are nausea, peripheral neuropathy, low blood counts, and fatigue. Other, more serious side effects can occur less often.
Tecentriq is marketed by F. Hoffmann-La Roche/Genentech.
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