Gazyva for Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

A stethoscope on a laboratory bench. Clinical trial of venetoclax yields positive results.

Gazyva (obinutuzumab) for CLL

The FDA approved obinutuzumab, a novel therapy developed by Genentech and Roch, in November 2013 for use in combination with chlorambucil for the treatment of patients with previously untreated chronic lymphocytic leukemia, or CLL.

Obinutuzumab vs. Rituximab for CLL

In December of 2014, new information became available, reflecting data from Stage 2 of the CLL11 study. Obinutuzumab was shown to significantly help people live without their disease worsening when combined with chlorambucil -- compared to rituximab and chlorambucil -- in people with previously untreated CLL.

Obinutuzumab plus chlorambucil helped people with previously untreated CLL live nearly a year longer without their disease worsening or death -- something called progression-free survival -- than rituximab plus chlorambucil.

Obinutuzumab plus chlorambucil nearly tripled the number of people showing no evidence of disease compared to rituximab plus chlorambucil.

Obinutuzumab vs. Rituximab in non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Obinutuzumab is also being investigated across various types of blood cancers, including multiple clinical studies in non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL).

Representatives from Genentech and Roche note there are multiple ongoing studies comparing obinutuzumab with rituximab in indolent non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.

How Obinutuzumab Works

Obinutuzumab, like rituximab, is a monoclonal antibody. That is, it's a special kind of antibody engineered by scientists and produced by manufacturers.

The final product is hung in a bag as a liquid and given via intravenous infusion.

Like rituximab, obinutuzumab targets the CD20 antigen. The CD20 antigen is something that’s present on the surface of certain cells, including the white blood cells known as B-lymphocytes, or B cells. Immature B cells, called pre-B cells, also have this CD20 antigen.

When obinutuzumab binds to CD20, this leads to the death and spilling open of B cells.  It does so by recruiting other immune cells to do the job, by directly activating death signals and/or activating something called the complement cascade – a series of chemical reactions your immune system uses, signaling the need to seek and destroy.

According to a press release by the drug makers, obinutuzumab is thought to have an increased ability to induce direct cell death and induces greater activity in how it recruits the body’s immune system to attack B-cells when compared to rituximab.

Adverse Events and Side Effects

As with any cancer medication, the decision to treat is informed by the known risks and benefits of treatment. Gazyva can cause serious or life-threatening side effects including Hepatitis B reactivation, progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), infusion reactions, tumor lysis syndrome, infections, and low white blood cell counts.

The most common side effects of Gazyva are infusion reactions, low white blood cell counts, low platelet counts, low red blood cell counts, fever, cough, nausea, and diarrhea.


Sachdeva M, Dhingra S. Obinutuzumab: A FDA approved monoclonal antibody in the treatment of untreated chronic lymphocytic leukemia. International Journal of Applied and Basic Medical Research. 2015;5(1):54-57.

Gazyva Prescribing Information. Accessed February 2015.

UPDATE 1-Roche study shows Gazyva offers strong benefits as lymphoma drug. Accessed February 2015.

FDA Approves Gazyva® (Obinutuzumab) Supplemental Biologics License Application with New Data in Previously Untreated Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia Accessed February 2015

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