Immunotherapy for Bladder Cancer
The UW Prostate and Genitourinary Cancer Program (UWPGCP) and the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center, the state's only comprehensive cancer center, take a multidisciplinary approach to treating bladder cancer.
In recent years, a significant amount of cancer research has been devoted to immunotherapy, which uses the body's own defense mechanisms to fight cancer.
All cells have protein markers, called antigens, on their surfaces that identify them as either "normal" or "foreign." The presence of foreign antigens (such as cancer cells) in the body provokes a sophisticated chemical reaction involving lymphocytes and other cells that defend the body against disease. Some of these defender cells produce antibodies, which seek out and destroy specific antigens.
Immunotherapies are designed to manipulate the antigen/antibody immune response by targeting antigens on specific types of tumor cells. As researchers identify more of these tumor-specific antigens, they are working to develop therapeutic agents that target only those cells.
Immunotherapy and Bladder Cancer
For superficial bladder cancer, another type of immunotherapy has become the standard of care.
Intravesical immunotherapy involves filling the bladder with a solution containing Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG), a bacterial organism that is sometimes used to treat tuberculosis. The BCG, delivered through a catheter, stimulates an immune response within the bladder to destroy any remaining cancer cells.
Intravesical immunotherapy is performed after the bladder wall has been scraped to remove superficial tumor cells. The treatment success rate with intravesical BCG is 70 to 80 percent.