Atezolizumab (Tecentriq) is an immunotherapyinfo-icon approved by the Food and Drug Administrationinfo-icon to treat metastaticinfo-icon triple-negative breast cancerinfo-icon that expresses the PD-L1 proteininfo-icon. Immunotherapies push the body's own immune systeminfo-icon to attack cancer cells. Atezolizumab is the first immunotherapy to show positive results in in phase III trialinfo-icon for triple-negative breast cancer.

Atezolizumab works in people who have tumors that express the PD-L1 protein. This protein has a role in telling the immune system that a given cellinfo-icon is part of your body. In tumors that express PD-L1, the protein tricks the immune system into believing cancer cells are healthy cells, which prevents these cells from attacking the cancer.

Atezolizumab blocks PD-L1, allowing the immune system to attack breast cancer cells.

Atezolizumab is only approved for people with triple-negative breast cancer and is given with the chemotherapyinfo-icon nab-paclitaxelinfo-icon.

How Atezolizumab Works

An immunotherapyinfo-icon is a medicineinfo-icon that works to engage your immune systeminfo-icon, your body's natural defense against diseases. Since cancer cells are mutated versions of your own cells, the immune system treats them as a natural part of your body. Immunotherapies block certain communications between immune cells and cancer cells. This causes the immune system to treat the cancer cells as a threat and to destroy them.

Atezolizumab targets the PD-L1 proteininfo-icon, stopping a reaction that tells immune cells not to attack breast cancer cells. With that reaction blocked, the immune system sees breast cancer cells as a disease and destroys them.

The PD-L1 protein is not found in all tumors. Doctors will test the immune cells in and around the breast cancer to see if they express PD-L1 and are likely to respond to atezolizumab.

How Atezolizumab is Given

Atezolizumab is given by veininfo-icon at your treatment center. The first treatment is given over the course of an hour, and follow-up infusions are given every 3 weeks and take 30 minutes.

Side Effects and Things to Remember

People taking atezolizumab and nab-paclitaxelinfo-icon experienced side effects including nauseainfo-icon, cough, low white blood cellinfo-icon counts and hypothyroidism, a conditioninfo-icon where your body does not produce enough thyroid hormones. People taking atezolizumab are also more likely to experience gradeinfo-icon 3 or 4 neuropathyinfo-icon than people taking nab-paclitaxel alone. Side effects that are grade 3 or 4 interfere with daily life and require medical attention.

Atezolizumab, like other immunotherapies, is linked to immune-related side effects that can take different forms, including problems in the lungs, liver or intestines or reactions to the infusioninfo-icon of the medicineinfo-icon. Your healthcare providers will talk to you about watching for these problems and what symptoms you should report right away.

April 2, 2019
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