In a new study, researchers found that a new type of drug can increase the survival of patients with the most common form of bladder cancer.
The research was conducted by a team at the Queen Mary University of London and elsewhere.
Urothelial cancer is the most common type of bladder cancer (90% of cases) and can also be found in the renal pelvis (where urine collects inside the kidney), ureter (tube that connects the kidneys to the bladder) and urethra.
Globally, approximately 549,000 new cases of bladder cancer and 200,000 deaths are reported every year.
One of the most widely used treatments for this type of cancer is chemotherapy which works by targeting all the cells in the body, successfully acting upon cancer cells, but also affecting non-cancer cells, causing side effects.
A new class of drugs known as ‘antibody-drug conjugates’ (ADC) work by having an antibody attached to a chemotherapy-like drug.
The antibody specifically targets and attaches to the cancer cells, bringing with it the chemotherapy-like drug, allowing it to only act upon those cancer cells and ignore normal cells in the body.
In the study, the team tested 608 patients in 19 countries using a new ADC drug enfortumab vedotin. These patients had locally advanced or metastatic urothelial cancer.
The team found that the risk of death was 30% lower with the new drug than with chemotherapy, with the survival of approximately 13 months for the new drug.
The progression-free survival, which is the time without progression of cancer, was 5.6 months for the new drug vs. 3.7 months for chemotherapy.
Overall response rate, the percentage of patients with either complete or partial response, was 40.6% vs. 17.9% of patients in the chemotherapy arm.
The side effects of the drug were manageable and overall similar to chemotherapy.
The findings suggest that this new type of drug leads to a survival advantage in bladder cancer which has been difficult to achieve in this difficult disease.
It reduced the death rate by 30% and beat chemotherapy in every setting.
One author of the study is Tom Powles, Professor of Genitourinary Oncology. The study is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
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