Immunotherapy for bladder cancer

Immunotherapy uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. BCG is a type of immunotherapy treatment used to treat non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer.

A new group of immunotherapy drugs work by blocking barriers called checkpoints. These barriers are created by cancer cells to protect against attack from the immune system. The checkpoint inhibitors help make the cancer cells visible to the body’s own immune system. Once the barrier is removed, the immune system can recognise and destroy the cancer.

Several of these checkpoint immunotherapy drugs are already approved for the treatment of other cancers like melanoma and lung cancer. They may soon be reimbursed for bladder cancer. Clinical trials are testing whether having checkpoint immunotherapy with chemotherapy and radiation therapy will benefit people with bladder cancer that has spread into the bladder wall.

To learn more, call 13 11 20, or see Immunotherapy.

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Side effects of immunotherapy

Like all treatments, checkpoint immunotherapy can cause side
effects. Because checkpoint immunotherapy acts on the immune
system, it can cause inflammation in any part of the body. This
can lead to a variety of side effects such as skin rash, diarrhoea
and breathing problems.

Video: What is immunotherapy?

Watch this short video to learn more about immunotherapy.

This information was last reviewed in February 2018
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