What is Tecentriq® (atezolizumab)?

Tecentriq® (atezolizumab) is a biologic immunotherapy medication that is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a treatment for certain patients with advanced or metastatic triple-negative breast cancer. The FDA granted accelerated approval for atezolizumab, which means that early data from a clinical study strongly suggests that patients benefitted from treatment with this medication.1

Atezolizumab was approved to be used in combination with the chemotherapy medicine Abraxane (nab–paclitaxel). The combination is used for women with locally advanced or metastatic triple-negative breast cancer that cannot be treated surgically and whose tumors have a protein called PD-L1.

Locally advanced breast cancer is cancer that has spread beyond the breast, to the chest wall, skin, or lymph nodes, but it has not spread to other parts of the body.2 Metastatic breast cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Triple-negative breast cancer refers to tumors that do not display a series of molecules that are common targets of chemotherapy. About 15-20% of breast cancers are triple-negative. Specifically, this type of breast cancer is3:

  • Estrogen receptor-negative
  • Progesterone receptor-negative
  • Human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-negative

What are the ingredients in Tecentriq?

The active ingredient in Tecentriq is atezolizumab.

How does atezolizumab work?

Atezolizumab is one of several engineered monoclonal antibodies used to treat cancer. Our bodies naturally produce antibodies, which are immune factors that act against bacteria, viruses, and other foreign organisms that invade and pose a threat to our health. Drugmakers have engineered a variety of antibodies to target the mechanisms that cause certain diseases, including breast cancer. Atezolizumab is designed to bind to a specific molecule, called PD-L1, that appears on the surface of some breast cancers. PD-L1 connecting with PD-1 receptors on T-cells effectively hides the tumor from our body’s natural immune system. Atezolizumab binds to PD-L1, which blocks its connection with PD-1 and disrupts its tumor-shrouding action. This allows the body’s immune system to recognize and attack the tumor.4

Atezolizumab works only with tumors that display the PD-L1 molecule. Before doctors prescribe this medicine, they will test your tumor to be sure it has PD-L1. Otherwise, the medication won’t work.

What are the possible side effects of atezolizumab?

Common side effects with atezolizumab include5:

  • Hair loss
  • Tingling or numbness in hands or feet
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Low red blood cells (anemia)
  • Constipation
  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Low white blood cells
  • Vomiting
  • Decreased appetite

In some patients, atezolizumab may cause more harmful, sometimes life-threatening side effects. These include5:

  • Lung problems, called pneumonitis
  • Liver problems, called hepatitis
  • Intestinal problems, called colitis
  • Problems in your hormone-secreting glands, especially the pancreas, thyroid, adrenal glands, and pituitary
  • Problems in other parts of the body, including the eyes, heart, skin, and nervous system
  • Severe infections
  • Severe reaction to infusion, which is how the medication is given

Atezolizumab has been shown to harm fetuses, so it is important not to become pregnant or breastfeed while you are taking it. Women who can become pregnant who receive atezolizumab should use birth control during their treatment and for at least five months after treatment with atezolizumab is completed (patients should discuss appropriate birth control methods with their doctor). This is not a complete list of all potential side effects of atezolizumab. For more information, consult your doctor or healthcare provider. If you notice any new or worsening side effects, contact your doctor or healthcare provider immediately.

Things to note about atezolizumab

Before taking atezolizumab, tell your doctor about all your health conditions, including if you5:

  • Have immune system problems such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, or lupus
  • Have had an organ transplant
  • Have lung or breathing problems
  • Have liver problems
  • Have a condition that affects your nervous system, such as myasthenia gravis or Guillain-Barré syndrome
  • Are pregnant or plan to become pregnant or are breastfeeding

Before starting treatment with atezolizumab, patients should talk to their doctor about all medications (prescription and over-the-counter), vitamins, and herbal supplements they are taking. Some medications or supplements may interfere with each other and may cause side effects.

Dosing information

Atezolizumab is given either through a vein in your arm via intravenous (IV) infusion. Infusions of atezolizumab must be given in a medical office, and they take about 30-60 minutes to complete. Atezolizumab was approved to be used for triple-negative breast cancer in combination with a specific chemotherapy medicine, known by the generic name of nab-paclitaxel. Nab-paclitaxel is also given intravenously. These medications are given as part of treatment cycles, and your doctor will determine the appropriate dosing regimen and administration schedule for you.4 For more information about atezolizumab, read the complete prescribing information.

Patients should talk to their doctor if they have any questions, or if they have questions regarding their atezolizumab regimen.

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Written by: Editorial Team | Last reviewed: October 2020.