A new study has confirmed that Tecentriq, an immunotherapy drug, improves survival rates among those with newly diagnosed non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC), which make up 85% of lung tumors. The drug was approved by the FDA earlier this year.
Tecentriq (atezolizumab) is a checkpoint inhibitor drug. As such, it works by targeting a protein called PD-L1 that lies on the surface of tumor cells and signals the body’s immune system T cells not to attack certain pathogens. Targeting PD-L1 thus ensures that the body’s natural T cells do not get inhibited and can attack and destroy unwanted pathogens- in this case, cancer cells.
For the study, researchers included 554 patients with stage 4 metastatic NSCLC tumors. All patients had tumors that lacked mutations in the EGFR and ALK genes, as patients with these markers tend to be better treated by other drugs.
In the end, the researchers found that the 205 patients whose tumors had a high cellular expression of PD-L1, and who received Tecentriq, had a median overall survival rate of 20 months. Meanwhile, those who received the standard platinum-based chemotherapy treatment had an overall survival rate of just 13 months.
The researchers also noted that median progression-free survival- the time taken from treatment to the disease worsening- was eight months for those on Tecentriq and five months for those on standard chemotherapy.
Although generally well-tolerated among patients, the researchers say that they did not test the drug against an increasingly used treatment- standard chemotherapy in addition to immunotherapy drug, Keytruda. This, they say, is because the study started before these new treatments made it to clinical practice. As such, they say that usage of Tecentriq may nevertheless provide another non-chemotherapy treatment option for those with PD-L1-high lung cancer.