FDA Approves New Treatment Option for Previously Untreated Advanced Follicular Lymphoma

November 16th, 2017

On November 16, 2017, the FDA approved Gazyva® (obinutuzumab) in combination with chemotherapy, followed by Gazyva alone in those who responded, for people with previously untreated advanced follicular lymphoma (stage II bulky, III or IV).


News in brief

  • The approval is based on results from the Phase III GALLIUM study, which showed superior progression-free survival (PFS) for patients who received this Gazyva-based regimen compared with those who received a Rituxan® (rituximab)-based regimen as an initial (first-line) therapy.
  • Follicular lymphoma, the most common slow-growing (indolent) form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), is incurable and becomes harder to treat each time it returns.
  • This Gazyva regimen is the first treatment option to demonstrate superior PFS over Rituxan-based therapy for people with previously untreated advanced follicular lymphoma.
  • With this approval, Gazyva is available in the United States for three different indications across two common types of blood cancer.

Important Safety Information

What is the most important safety information I should know about GAZYVA?

Tell your doctor right away about any side effect you experience. GAZYVA can cause side effects that can become serious or life threatening, including:

  • Hepatitis B Virus (HBV): Hepatitis B can cause liver failure and death. If you have a history of hepatitis B infection, GAZYVA could cause it to return. You should not receive GAZYVA if you have active hepatitis B liver disease. Your doctor or healthcare team will need to screen you for hepatitis B before, and monitor you during and after, your treatment with GAZYVA. Sometimes this will require treatment for hepatitis B. Symptoms of hepatitis include: worsening of fatigue and yellow discoloration of skin or eyes.
  • Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML): PML is a rare and serious brain infection caused by a virus. PML can be fatal. Your weakened immune system could put you at risk. Your doctor will watch for symptoms. Symptoms of PML include: confusion, difficulty talking or walking, dizziness or loss of balance, and vision problems.

Who should not receive GAZYVA?

  • Do NOT receive GAZYVA if you have had an allergic reaction (e.g., anaphylaxis or serum sickness) to GAZYVA. Tell your healthcare provider if you have had an allergic reaction to obinutuzumab or any other ingredients in GAZYVA in the past.

What are the additional possible serious side effects of GAZYVA?

Tell your doctor right away about any side effect you experience. GAZYVA can cause side effects that may become severe or life threatening, including:

  • Infusion Reactions: These side effects may occur during or within 24 hours of any GAZYVA infusion. Some infusion reactions can be serious, including, but not limited to, severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis), acute life-threatening breathing problems, or other life-threatening infusion reactions. If you have a reaction, the infusion is either slowed or stopped until your symptoms are resolved. Most patients are able to complete infusions and receive medication again. However, if the infusion reaction is life threatening, the infusion of GAZYVA will be permanently stopped. Your healthcare team will take steps to help lessen any side effects you may have to the infusion process. You may be given medicines to take before each GAZYVA treatment. Symptoms of infusion reactions may include: fast heartbeat, tiredness, dizziness, headache, redness of the face, nausea, chills, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, rash, high blood pressure, low blood pressure, difficulty breathing, and chest discomfort.
  • Hypersensitivity Reactions Including Serum Sickness: Some people receiving GAZYVA may have severe or life-threatening allergic reactions. This reaction may be severe, may happen during or after an infusion, and may affect many areas of the body. If an allergic reaction occurs, your doctor will stop the infusion and permanently discontinue GAZYVA.
  • Tumor Lysis Syndrome (TLS): Tumor lysis syndrome, including fatal cases, has been reported in patients receiving GAZYVA. GAZYVA works to break down cancer cells quickly. As cancer cells break apart, their contents are released into the blood. These contents may cause damage to organs and the heart, and may lead to kidney failure requiring the need for dialysis treatment. Your doctor may prescribe medication to help prevent TLS. Your doctor will also conduct regular blood tests to check for TLS. Symptoms of TLS may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and tiredness.
  • Infections: While you’re taking GAZYVA, you may develop infections. Some of these infections may be fatal and severe, so be sure to talk to your doctor if you think you have an infection. Patients administered GAZYVA in combination with chemotherapy, followed by GAZYVA alone are at a high risk of infections during and after treatment. Patients with a history of recurring or chronic infections may be at an increased risk of infection. Patients with an active infection should not be treated with GAZYVA. Patients taking GAZYVA plus bendamustine may be at higher risk for fatal or severe infections compared to patients taking GAZYVA plus CHOP or CVP.
  • Low White Blood Cell Count: When you have an abnormally low count of infection-fighting white blood cells, it is called neutropenia. While you are taking GAZYVA, your doctor will do blood work to check your white blood cell count. Severe and life-threatening neutropenia can develop during or after treatment with GAZYVA. Some cases of neutropenia can last for more than one month. If your white blood cell count is low, your doctor may prescribe medication to help prevent infections.
  • Low Platelet Count: Platelets help stop bleeding or blood loss. GAZYVA may reduce the number of platelets you have in your blood; having low platelet count is called thrombocytopenia. This may affect the clotting process. While you are taking GAZYVA, your doctor will do blood work to check your platelet count. Severe and life-threatening thrombocytopenia can develop during treatment with GAZYVA. Fatal bleeding events have occurred in patients treated with GAZYVA. If your platelet count gets too low, your treatment may be delayed or reduced.

The most common side effects of GAZYVA in CLL were infusion reactions, low white blood cell counts, low platelet counts, low red blood cell counts, fever, cough, nausea, and diarrhea.

The safety of GAZYVA was evaluated based on 392 patients with relapsed or refractory NHL, including FL (81%), small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL) and marginal zone lymphoma (MZL) (a disease for which GAZYVA is not indicated), who did not respond to or progressed within 6 months of treatment with rituximab product or a rituximab product-containing regimen. In patients with follicular lymphoma, the profile of side effects that were seen were consistent with the overall population who had NHL. The most common side effects of GAZYVA were infusion reactions, low white blood cell counts, nausea, fatigue, cough, diarrhea, constipation, fever, low platelet counts, vomiting, upper respiratory tract infection, decreased appetite, joint or muscle pain, sinusitis, low red blood cell counts, general weakness, and urinary tract infection.

  • A randomized, open-label multicenter trial (GALLIUM) evaluated the safety of GAZYVA as compared to rituximab product in 1,385 patients with previously untreated follicular lymphoma (86%) or marginal zone lymphoma (14%). The most common side effects of GAZYVA were infusion reactions, low white blood cell count, upper respiratory tract infection, cough, constipation and diarrhea.

What other information should I tell my doctor before receiving GAZYVA?

You should talk to your doctor about:

  • Immunizations: Before receiving GAZYVA therapy, tell your healthcare provider if you have recently received or are scheduled to receive a vaccine. People who are treated with GAZYVA should not receive live vaccines.
  • Pregnancy: Tell your doctor if you are pregnant, think that you might be pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding. GAZYVA may harm your unborn baby. Speak to your doctor about using GAZYVA while you are pregnant. Talk to your doctor or your child’s doctor about the safety and timing of live virus vaccinations to your infant if you received GAZYVA during pregnancy. It is not known if GAZYVA may pass into your breast milk. Speak to your doctor about using GAZYVA if you are breastfeeding.

Tell your doctor about any side effects.

These are not all of the possible side effects of GAZYVA. For more information, ask your doctor or pharmacist.

GAZYVA is available by prescription only.

You may report side effects to the FDA at (800) FDA-1088, or www.fda.gov/medwatch. You may also report side effects to Genentech at (888) 835-2555.

Please see the accompanying full Prescribing Information, including BOXED WARNINGS, for additional Important Safety Information.


Sandra Horning, M.D.

"Today’s Gazyva approval is an important advance for the thousands of people diagnosed each year with follicular lymphoma who hope to delay disease progression for as long as possible. We’re pleased we can now offer patients with this incurable blood cancer an initial treatment option shown to improve upon Rituxan, the standard of care in this setting for more than 10 years.”