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Bladder Cancer Awareness Month: 2020 Immunotherapy Research Update

May 23, 2020

Earlier this year, the FDA approved pembrolizumab (Keytruda), a checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy that targets the PD-1 pathway, to treat high-risk, non-muscle invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC) in patients who are not responsive to BCG treatment and who will not undergo surgery. This is just one of the many new and emerging treatments for bladder cancer.

This May for Bladder Cancer Awareness Month, we look at the changing treatment landscape, new scientific research, and how we’re working toward a future immune to bladder cancer. 

New Bladder Cancer Research and Treatments

Arjun BalarImmunotherapy has already made an impact in bladder cancer, but doctors are still striving to develop cures for more patients. We spoke with Arjun V. Balar, M.D., director of the genitourinary medical oncology program at NYU Langone Health’s Perlmutter Cancer Center, about current immunotherapies, newer immune-based strategies, and the challenges ahead in improving care for bladder cancer.

READ Q&A with Dr. Balar

Transforming Genitourinary Cancer Care

Cancers are often divided into "hot" and "cold" tumors, which determines their responsiveness to immunotherapy, explained Marijo Bilusic, M.D., Ph.D., of the National Cancer Institute, during the research update panel at the 2019 CRI Immunotherapy Patient Summit in Baltimore.

Bladder Cancer Patient Story

Ron SpeidelIn September 2013, Ron was diagnosed with muscle-invasive, high-grade urothelial bladder cancer. After chemotherapy and surgery failed to keep his cancer at bay, he underwent tests and was approved to participate in a clinical trial combining the immunotherapies nivolumab (Opdivo), a PD-1 checkpoint inhibitor, and ipilimumab (Yervoy), a CTLA-4 checkpoint inhibitor. In April 2020, six years after diagnosis and over four years out of treatment, he joined a survivorship program at MD Anderson.

Read Ron's bladder cancer story

Bladder Cancer Patient Perspective

At the 2018 CRI Immunotherapy Patient Summit in New York City, Belur Bhagavan, M.D., joined us not as a physician, but as a bladder and prostate cancer patient. He noted the progress of medical knowledge on the lymphocyte, discussed his treatment with BCG, and shared further treatment with the PD-1 checkpoint inhibitor pembrolizumab (Keytruda). 

Cancer Researcher

Stress has long been associated with cancer and the suppression of immune response. CRI Fellow Jun Young Hong, Ph.D., is particularly focusing on how early-life stress can affect life-long immunity and cancer susceptibility, in particular the impact on CD8 T cell function. Hopefully, this work will lead to better assessment of early-life risk factors, and ultimately, medications to prevent cancer.

Learn about Jun's cancer research

Immunotherapy for Bladder Cancer Information Updated

The FDA has approved five checkpoint immunotherapies that target the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway—which can suppress T cell activity—for patients with advanced bladder cancer who don’t respond to prior treatment. Researchers are exploring many different proteins, pathways, and platforms to develop new cancer treatments.

VIEW Immunotherapy for Bladder Cancer UPDATE

Find a Bladder Cancer Clinical Trial

A variety of new and promising cancer immunotherapy treatments are only available to patients in clinical trials. Our Immunotherapy Clinical Trial Finder will match you to trials for which you or a loved one may be eligible, and you can help speed the development of potentially lifesaving drugs for yourself and others.

FIND A Cancer Clinical TRIAL

Support Bladder Cancer Research

The CRI Anna-Maria Kellen Clinical Accelerator is funding a clinical trial that seeks to bolster a combination immunotherapy of PD-L1 and CTLA-4 checkpoint inhibitors through the use of an adjuvant designed to activate innate immune responses in bladder cancer and other advanced cancers. The trial opened in 2016 and is still enrolling new patients. This Bladder Cancer Awareness Month, support lifesaving cancer immunotherapy research.

Donate to Bladder Cancer Research

Be in the know with the latest immunotherapy news

*Immunotherapy results may vary from patient to patient.

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