Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer begins when the cells found in the lining of the bladder mutate and grow uncontrollably. These cells accumulate and form a mass known as a primary tumor. Several options are available to treat bladder cancer and include surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiation therapy. Your doctor may recommend one or a combination of these therapies.

Bladder cancer was the first cancer type to receive an approved immunotherapy agent, which was a monumental achievement for medicine. This agent, bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG), was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1990 and is used to treat and to reduce the risk of recurrence in early-stage bladder cancer. BCG is a weakened version of the bacterium that causes tuberculosis, and it is delivered directly into the bladder through a catheter. This is called intravesicle therapy. BCG attaches to the lining of the bladder and causes inflammation, which triggers an immune response. This stimulates the immune system to attack the cancer cells in the bladder.

Immune checkpoint inhibitors are another immunotherapy strategy used to treat bladder cancer. Checkpoint inhibitors are drugs that block specific proteins and receptors from triggering a slowdown of the immune system.

Additional immunotherapy drugs are available to treat bladder cancer, but not all immunotherapies are approved to treat all types and stages. Research in clinical trials is ongoing to develop more immunotherapies which offer new hope to people who have bladder cancer (see Clinical Trials). Ask your doctor about the best treatment options for you.


FDA-Approved Immunotherapies for Bladder Cancer*
As of 12/5/17
atezolizumab (Tecentriq)
avelumab (Bavencio)
bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG)
durvalumab (Imfinzi)
nivolumab (Opdivo)
pembrolizumab (Keytruda)

*Each therapy is prescribed based on specific criteria. Discuss your options
with your doctor.

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