Imfinzi® (durvalumab) is an immunotherapy treatment, meaning it impacts the way the immune system functions. More specifically, it is a human monoclonal antibody that blocks the programmed death-ligand PD-L1. It is indicated for use in adults patients with unresectable, Stage III NSCLC (non-small cell lung cancer) that has not worsened after concurrent platinum-based chemotherapy and radiation therapy. It is also indicated for use by individuals with specific types of bladder cancer, and is administered via an infusion. Individuals receiving durvalumab should be monitored for side effects, including pneumonitis (inflammation of the lungs), changes in liver function, intestinal problems, changes in kidney function, hormone changes, rashes, infections, and infusion-related reactions.
How does durvalumab work?
Durvalumab blocks a programmed death-ligand, PD-L1. PD-L1 is a protein that plays a key role in regulating the immune system and immune response. PD-L1 binds to a receptor called PD-1 on specific immune system cells, including T cells and B cells. These cells normally attack foreign invaders, such as cancers. When PD-L1 and PD-1 join together, the immune system response is inhibited, or turned down, significantly. When the immune system is turned down, the chance of immune cells like T cells finding and eliminating cancer cells is decreased. Cancer cells can take advantage of this and can increase PD-1 and PD-L1 binding to avoid the protective cells of the immune system. Durvalumab blocks the joining of PD-1 and PD-L1 to keep the immune response from being suppressed.
What are the possible side effects of durvalumab?
Multiple clinical trials evaluated the safety and efficacy of durvalumab. The most common side effects of durvalumab for individuals using it for treatment of NSCLC are fatigue, cough, radiation pneumonitis/pneumonitis, rash, problems breathing, and upper respiratory infections. This is not an exhaustive list of all potential side effects of durvalumab. Talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist for further information.
Things to note about durvalumab
Durvalumab is an immunotherapy treatment that can impact the way the immune system functions, potentially leading to serious damage to other organs and tissues. Individuals taking durvalumab should be monitored for the following complications:
Liver problems, including hepatitis
Lung problems, including pneumonitis
Intestinal problems, including colitis
Hormone gland problems, including issues with the thyroid, pituitary, pancreas, and adrenals
The above signs and symptoms are not exhaustive of all indicators of potential issues. Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider if you are concerned about any new or worsening symptoms, even beyond the list above. Durvalumab is indicated for use by adults only. It is not indicated for use by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Before starting durvalumab, alert your provider if you:
Have liver problems
Have immune system problems including lupus, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s disease
Have breathing or lung problems
Have had an organ transplant
Currently have or are currently being treated for an infection
Are taking any other medications, including vitamins, over-the-counter medications, or herbal supplements
Have any other medical conditions
Are pregnant or could become pregnant
Durvalumab is administered through an intravenous (IV) infusion into a vein. The infusion generally takes place over the course of an hour, however, the time of administration may be adjusted by your doctor or healthcare provider. The exact dosage and number of treatments will be determined by your doctor. Any missed infusion appointments need to be rescheduled as soon as possible.1
Last reviewed: January 2020.
Imfinzi Prescribing Information. AstraZeneca. https://www.azpicentral.com/imfinzi/imfinzi.pdf#page=1. Published February 2018. Accessed March 1, 2018.