Future Treatments and Research for Bladder Cancer

Medically reviewed by Monica Bien, MPA, PA-C on April 4, 2016Written by Faith Black on April 4, 2016

Medications

Currently, many clinical trials are looking at medication combinations for stage 4 bladder cancer. Previously, these medications were used alone or as single agents for cancer treatment. Now, researchers are looking to see if combining medications can have a more promising effect.

Ongoing studies are also examining how the timing of the medication affects its effectiveness. For example, many studies are looking at what happens when patients take chemotherapy before surgery.

Surgery

Many people with bladder cancer have a surgical procedure called a cystectomy. This involves removing part of the bladder or the entire bladder in hopes of removing the cancer.

Some surgeons are choosing a new approach to this long time intervention by using a robotic cystectomy. This minimally invasive procedure allows the surgeon to operate through several small incisions instead of one larger one. This may lead to shorter recovery times and lower complication rates. Surgeons have been using this type of surgery for other procedures, including other cancer treatments.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy involves using the body’s own immune system to attack cancer cells. Newer drugs known as immune checkpoint inhibitors have shown promising preliminary results in advanced bladder cancer. One example of this type of drug is atezolizumab. Clinical trials are underway for these treatments.

Targeted therapies

Targeted therapies are a newer type of treatment that can more precisely identify and attack cancer cells. These therapies are thought to have fewer side effects than traditional cancer treatments. As researchers learn more about what makes cancer cells different from healthy cells, more targeted therapies are becoming available.

Targeted therapies are already being used to treat other cancers, including breast cancer. Many clinical trials are looking at the outcomes of these targeted therapies.

Gene therapy

Recent advances in genetic research have helped us understand more about the genetic causes of cancer. Cancer cells undergo genetic defects or mutations. This causes them to multiply and divide at an increased rate. It’s thought that by replacing these mutated or defective genes with normal genes, the cells will revert to their normal function and growth rate.

Gene therapy studies are relatively new. However, some clinical trials are already looking at the outcome for gene therapy in bladder cancers.

Historically, treatment options for stage 4 bladder cancer have been limited and prognosis for patients has been poor. Today, researchers are developing more advanced therapies and treatments that may improve the outlook for people with stage 4 bladder cancer.

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