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Harnessing Your Immune System to Treat Advanced Bladder Cancer

Bladder CancerYour immune system helps you to fight off all kinds of ailments, including the common cold and the flu. But in recent years, immunotherapy — drugs that use your body’s immune system to kill diseases — has become an important tool for treating some types of cancer. And now, people with advanced bladder cancer have an immunotherapy option.

Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a drug called atezolizumab, which is sold under the brand name Tecentriq, to treat the most common type of bladder cancer, called urothelial carcinoma. Atezolizumab is the first product in its class to receive FDA approval to treat this type of cancer, the FDA says.

The drug targets a protein found on the body’s immune cells and some cancer cells. By blocking interactions between this and another protein, the drug may help the body’s immune system fight cancer cells.

A study of the drug showed that up to 28 percent of patients who received atezolizumab experienced complete or partial shrinking of their tumor. Response rates were greater in those who had a certain protein on their immune cells called PD-L1. Learn more