Immunotherapies for Advanced Bladder Cancers

Cancer MicroscopeImmunotherapy is a very encouraging approach for treating bladder cancers and other tumors arising from the renal pelvis and ureters. There are a number of different types of bladder cancer immunotherapies currently available:

1. Atezolizumab (brand name Tecentriq) is an FDA-approved immunotherapy for urothelial carcinoma, the most common form of bladder cancer. Atezolizumab is an immune checkpoint blockade or “checkpoint inhibitor.” It selectively binds to cancer cells based on the presence of PD-L1, a protein on the tumor surface.

PD-L1 is more strongly expressed on certain types of tumors, including urothelial cancers arising from the bladder, renal pelvis, and ureters. PD-L1 prevents the body’s immune system from being able to recognize the cancer and attack it. It had been more than two decades since the FDA approved a new bladder cancer treatment.

Atezolizumab is only approved for urothelial carcinoma that has grown or recurred after previous chemotherapy, and we offer this treatment at Weill Cornell Medicine. We are also currently testing another PD-L1 checkpoint inhibitor alone or in combination with another immune checkpoint antibody versus standard chemotherapy through an open phase III clinical trial.

2. Ramucirumab is a monoclonal antibody that binds to the Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) receptor-2. This is a receptor found predominantly on blood vessels. Angiogenesis is a process where vessels grow to feed tumors and blocking this pathway can be helpful at stopping the growth of these vessels, particularly in combination with chemotherapy. We previously completed a randomized phase III trial which demonstrated that patients who got docetaxel (Taxotere) chemotherapy plus ramicurimab had more than twice the tumor shrinkage and double the time until tumor growth compared to docetaxel chemo alone; This study was recently published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Based upon our results, we recently opened a phase III trial using this drug in combination with chemotherapy. People who have already received chemotherapy, and those who have received chemo followed by atezolizumab or other checkpoint inhibitors are eligible for this clinical trial.

3. IMMU-132 (also known as Sacituzumab Govitecan) is an antibody drug conjugate that leverages the capability of monoclonal antibodies to attach to specific targets on cancer cells. By attaching a drug to the monoclonal antibodies, treatments are able to “hitch a ride” into the cancer cells.

This treatment is a potential good treatment fit for adults with metastatic bladder cancers who have not responded to chemotherapy or who have relapsed after chemotherapy or PL-1/PD-L1 checkpoint inhibitor immune treatment.

Initial positive results in the phase I trial led to a phase II clinical trial that is currently open to enrollment. Learn more about how this drug works in the body and get more information about our open IMMU-132 clinical trial by checking out our recent blog post, “Doing Better on Behalf of Bladder Cancer Patients.”

4. REGN2810 is a monoclonal antibody – a type of protein that works by blocking the programmed death receptor 1 (PD-1), a cell receptor on immune cells that is involved in preventing the immune cells from destroying other cells. Through our open clinical trial, patients with bladder and other urothelial cancers who have received prior treatment with checkpoint inhibitors (such as atezolizumab) can get the combination of the REGN2810 drug with immune boosters.

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