What are the potential benefits of tebentafusp treatment?
A recent clinical trial showed that tebentafusp is the first therapy in patients with unresectable or metastatic uveal melanoma to prolong patients’ lives. It is what is called a palliative treatment meaning that it cannot cure patients from their cancer but it can significantly extend the time before their uveal melanoma progresses.
The clinical trial showed that tebentafusp was more effective than pembrolizumab, ipilimumab or dacarbazine, the other treatments it was compared to.
What are the potential side effects of tebentafusp treatment?
In the clinical trial patients generally coped well with any side effects they might have experienced.
The most common side effect in patients who received tebentafusp was a cytokine release syndrome which is a reaction by the immune cells. Symptoms can include fever, chills, low blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, rash, tiredness, headache, and shortness of breath. This reaction typically occurs on the first 3-4 occasions the treatment is administered. All patients are therefore admitted to hospital overnight, for at least the first three infusions. Tebentafusp is also started at a lower dose and increased slowly for the first three doses to help reduce the severity of the cytokine release syndrome.
Skin reactions, including rash and itching, can also be experienced by patients treated with tebentafusp. The skin reactions are generally managed by treatment with antihistamine and steroid creams.
Abnormal liver blood tests can be seen in patients treated with tebentafusp. Liver blood tests will be taken before starting tebentafusp, and during treatment with tebentafusp.
How is tebentafusp treatment given?
You will receive tebentafusp as an intravenous infusion (i.e. through a vein in the arm) over 15-20 minutes. Treatment is given once every week for as long as your medical team see a benefit with treatment, with manageable side effects.
For the first three infusions of tebentafusp, you will be admitted to the hospital overnight so you can be monitored during the infusion and for at least 16 hours after the infusion is completed.
Most patients then receive the next doses in the outpatient clinic and you will be monitored for a minimum of 30 minutes following each of these infusions.
How can I access tebentafusp treatment?
Tebentafusp has been licensed in the UK to be given as a treatment, however it is currently being reviewed by NICE and the SMC in Scotland. These organisations review all new cancer treatments to decide if they are approved for use. Until the review, Immunocore, the company that produce tebentafusp, have provided access to the treatment in certain hospitals. To find out which hospitals are offering treatment see here.