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Tecentriq (chemical name: atezolizumab) is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be used in combination with the chemotherapy medicine Abraxane (chemical name: albumin-bound or nab-paclitaxel) to treat unresectable locally advanced or metastatic triple-negative, PD-L1-positive breast cancer.

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How Tecentriq works

Tecentriq is a type of immunotherapy called an “immune checkpoint inhibitor.” Immune checkpoints are proteins in your body that help your immune system tell the difference between your own cells and foreign invaders, such as harmful bacteria. Cancer cells sometimes find ways to use these immune checkpoint proteins as a shield to avoid being identified and attacked by the immune system.

Immune checkpoint inhibitors target these immune checkpoint proteins and help the immune system recognize and attack cancer cells. PD-1 is a type of checkpoint protein found on T cells, which are immune system cells that roam throughout the body looking for signs of disease or infection. PD-L1 is another checkpoint protein found on many healthy cells in the body. When PD-1 binds to PD-L1, it stops T cells from killing a cell.

Still, some cancer cells have a lot of PD-L1 on their surface, which stops T cells from killing these cancer cells. An immune checkpoint inhibitor medicine that stops PD-1 from binding to PD-L1 allows T cells to attack the cancer cells.

Learn more about immune checkpoint inhibitors and how they work.

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Is Tecentriq right for you?

Tecentriq is approved to treat a specific type of triple-negative breast cancer.

Triple-negative breast cancer is breast cancer that is:

  • estrogen-receptor-negative
  • progesterone-receptor-negative
  • HER2-negative

Triple-negative breast cancers are usually more aggressive, harder to treat, and more likely to come back (recur) than cancers that are hormone-receptor-positive or HER2-positive. Triple-negative breast cancers don't usually respond to hormonal therapy medicines or the medicines that target the HER2 protein, such as Herceptin (chemical name: trastuzumab), Kadcyla (chemical name: T-DM1 or ado-trastuzumab emtansine), Nerlynx (chemical name: neratinib), Tykerb (chemical name: lapatinib), or Perjeta (chemical name: pertuzumab).

Unresectable locally advanced breast cancer is breast cancer that has spread outside the breast to other tissues in the breast area. Unresectable means that it can’t be removed with surgery.

Metastatic breast cancer is cancer that has spread to other parts of the body away from the breast, such as the bones or liver.

Tecentriq is an immune checkpoint inhibitor medicine that stops PD-1 from binding to PD-L1, which allows T cells to attack the cancer cells. Tecentriq only works on PD-L1-positive breast cancers.

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What to expect when taking Tecentriq

Tecentriq is given intravenously, which means the medicine is delivered directly into your bloodstream through an IV or a port.

You get Tecentriq on a 28-day cycle. On days 1 and 15, you get Tecentriq followed by Abraxane, which is also given intravenously. On day 8, you get Abraxane alone.

Women who are pregnant or planning to get pregnant should not be given Tecentriq. Tecentriq can cause embryo death and birth defects. It’s important that you don’t get pregnant while you’re getting Tecentriq; you must use effective birth control.

Visit Treatment for Breast Cancer During Pregnancy for more information.

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Paying for Tecentriq

If your doctor prescribes Tecentriq and you have any problems getting it covered by insurance, Genentech, the company that makes Tecentriq, has several patient assistance programs available that may be able to help you. You can also call the Genentech patient resource center at 1-877-436-3683.

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Tecentriq side effects

The most common side effects of Tecentriq are:

Tecentriq also can cause other serious side effects, including:

  • Lung problems: Tecentriq may cause inflammation of the lungs, which can be life-threatening. Symptoms include trouble breathing, worsening cough, and chest pain.
  • Liver problems: Tecentriq may cause hepatitis (inflammation of the liver). Tell your doctor right away if you have yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes, dark-colored urine, bleeding or bruising more easily than normal, severe nausea or vomiting, or pain on the right side of your stomach area.
  • Colitis (inflammation of the inner lining of the colon): Symptoms include diarrhea, blood or mucus in your stool, and severe stomach pain.
  • Hormone gland problems: Tecentriq may affect glands that make hormones your body needs to function properly, including the thyroid, adrenal glands, pancreas, and pituitary gland. Symptoms include headaches that won’t go away, extreme tiredness, weight gain or loss, changes in mood or behavior, feeling cold, and constipation.
  • Other organ problems: Tecentriq also may affect other organs in your body. Symptoms include severe muscle weakness, confusion, blurry or double vision, neck stiffness, skin blisters, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, or swelling of the ankles.
  • Severe infection: Symptoms include fever, cough, flu-like symptoms, pain when urinating, or back pain.

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  1. Tecentriq (atezolizumab) prescribing information. Genentech. San Francisco, CA. 2019. Available at (PDF)

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