Removing the bladder is currently a standard approach when cancer has invaded the muscle layer of the bladder.
In a phase 2 clinical trial that was the first of its kind, doctors found that some patients could be treated with a combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy without the need to remove their bladder.
Surgical removal of the bladder can be curative in muscle-invasive bladder cancer, but the procedure can have profound effects on a patient’s quality of life.
Seventy-six patients participated in this clinical trial, with approximately 43% achieving a complete response—no detectable cancer—when treated with the combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy.
Patients with a clinical complete response were offered the opportunity to proceed with additional immunotherapy, without surgical removal of the bladder.
Among patients opting to proceed without surgical removal of the bladder, about 70% had no evidence of recurrent cancer after two years. Based on the results of this trial, two follow-up studies were launched to build on this approach; one is ongoing, and another will open in the next six months.
Matthew Galsky, co-director of the Center of Excellence for Bladder Cancer at The Tisch Cancer Institute, said: “Treatment for muscle-invasive bladder cancer is in need of major improvements from both a quality-of-life and an effectiveness standpoint. If additional research confirms our findings, this may lead to a new paradigm in the treatment of muscle-invasive bladder cancer.”
The study was funded by Bristol Myers-Squibb, the Foundation for the NIH/Partnership for Accelerating Cancer Therapies, and the V Foundation.