Immunotherapy treatment for bladder cancer


    BLADDER cancer or urothelial cancer (UC), which starts in the urothelial cells that line the inside of the bladder, ranks ninth in global incidence with 430,000 new cases diagnosed in 2012 and approximately 145,000 worldwide deaths per year.

    Statistically, more than 1,500 new cases of bladder cancer are reported yearly in the Philippines.

    A complex and costly disease, bladder cancer, which is among the causes of global cancer deaths per year, is often characterized with trouble and pain when urinating, having to urinate frequently, and in some cases, presence of blood in the urine.

    It is said that about seven out of every 10 bladder cancers diagnosed start out at an early stage — when bladder cancer is highly treatable. Even early-stage bladder cancer may recur in the bladder and patients typically need follow-up tests.

    There is also a percentage of bladder cancer patients that are diagnosed late with advanced stage metastatic urothelial cancer.

    Unfortunately, advanced metastatic bladder cancer is usually associated with poor prognosis and limited treatment options. About thirty to 50 percent of patients are not fit enough to receive first-line cisplatin-based chemotherapy, making it harder to determine the course of treatment.

    Immunotherapy treatment like Atezolizumab, a type of cancer treatment that bolsters one’s own immune system to fight the cancer, could be used in this case.

    As a type of biological therapy, it utilizes substances made from living organisms to treat the cancer. It can be given alone or in combination with other types of cancer therapies and over the years, it has become an increasingly available, viable, and effective cancer treatment.

    Atezolizumab, which could help one’s own immune system to fight cancer, is a monoclonal antibody designed to bind with a protein called PD-L1 expressed on tumor cells and tumor-infiltrating immune cells.

    With its mechanism of action of blocking PD-L1, Atezolizumab reinvigorates the body’s immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells.

    Atezolizumab is approved as a first-line indication bladder cancer monotherapy. It treats adult patients after prior platinum containing chemotherapy or patients who are considered ineligible for chemotherapy.

    In clinical trials, fifteen percent of patients had a least partial shrinkage of their tumors that lasted between 2.1 to 13.8 months.

    This adds to the treatment options available for first-line treatment of metastatic urothelial cancer regardless of a patient’s PD-L1 status.