Atezolizumab is being investigated in addition to other chemotherapy (carboplatin and etoposide) as an initial (first-line) treatment for patients with extensive stage small cell lung cancer (ES-SCLC). SCLC is one of the two main types of lung cancer and the ES-SCLC means that the cancer has spread beyond a single area that can be treated with radiotherapy. The most common symptoms of lung cancer include cough, coughing up blood or rust-coloured sputum, chest pain, and shortness of breath, hoarseness, and weight loss.
Atezolizumab, given by intravenous infusion, acts by binding to a protein called anti-programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) that is found on the cancer cells or immune cells trying to attack cancer cells. Binding to this protein can lead to the activation of the body’s immune system to fight tumour cells. Some studies have reported that the addition of atezolizumab to chemotherapy (carboplatin and etoposide) has the potential to increase survival and in patients with ES-SCLC who have not previously received any treatment, when compared to chemotherapy alone.
Pembrolizumab is an immunomodulatory medicinal product, meaning that it helps the immune system to recognise and attack cancer cells. It is administered by intravenous infusion and is currently licensed in the UK for melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer and urothelial cancer – amongst others. If licensed, pembrolizumab, in addition to chemotherapy, would offer an alternative treatment for those with advanced, recurrent or metastatic cervical cancer.