Immunotherapy for Bladder Cancer

Female patient speaking to doctor about immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is type of cancer treatment that uses medications to help the patient’s immune system more effectively destroy cancer cells. Immunotherapy is used for treating bladder cancer, and these novel therapies are reducing recurrence rates, as well as improving survival rates and quality of life for patients.

Types of immunotherapy used for bladder cancer

There are several different types of immunotherapy that work in different ways, and two of these therapy types can be effective in combatting bladder cancer.

Cancer vaccines

Cancer vaccines work by stimulating the immune system to identify and attack cancer cells in the body. One such immunotherapy used for treating early-stage bladder cancer is an intravesical therapy called “Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG).” BCG is actually a type of bacteria that is similar to the kind that causes tuberculosis. With this therapy, BCG is put directly into the bladder in a liquid form, but rather than cause sickness, the bacteria activates the immune system cells in the bladder to attack cancer cells.

Immune checkpoint inhibitors

"Checkpoints" refer to proteins located on immune cells that must be switched on to trigger an immune system response. Cancer cells are able to use these checkpoints to avoid the immune system’s attacks. Immune checkpoint inhibitors are medications that can target and trigger these checkpoints, allowing the immune system to successfully attack bladder cancer cells. This type of immunotherapy is used for treating advanced bladder cancer, such as cancer that begins growing again after being treated with chemotherapy. Checkpoint inhibitors are also a treatment option for patients who are not eligible to receive chemotherapy.

There are several FDA-approved checkpoint inhibitors for bladder cancer, including:

  • Pembrolizumab (Keytruda®)
  • Atezolizumab (Tecentriq®)
  • Avelumab (Bavencio®)
  • Durvalumab (Imfinzi™)
  • Nivolumab (Opdivo®)

Moffitt’s approach to bladder cancer immunotherapy

Moffitt Cancer Center believes in taking a multispecialty approach to the treatment of cancer. The bladder cancer team within our Urologic Oncology Program comprises experts in all specialties, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, immunotherapy and more. This ensures that all angles of treatment are considered and that a patient’s individualized treatment plan includes the most appropriate therapies for the best possible outcome and quality of life.

Moffitt is recognized for its groundbreaking research and robust clinical trials program, which includes a range of immunotherapy options for treating bladder cancer. Due to these research efforts alongside our comprehensive treatment and supportive care, we have been recognized as a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute – the only cancer center based in Florida to hold this designation.

For more information about bladder cancer immunotherapy, or to consult with oncologists specializing in the treatment of bladder cancer, call Moffitt at 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online.