Urologic Oncologists Offer Access to Promising Immunotherapy Treatments for Genitourinary Cancers

Urological oncologists at John Theurer Cancer Center are using next-generation sequencing to identify specific tumor markers resulting from gene mutations, enabling them to select immunotherapy and targeted treatments for kidney, bladder and prostate cancer.

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Kidney – Immunotherapy has been shown to be effective at shrinking kidney tumors and helping patients to live longer — often with an improved quality of life. Interleukin-2 (IL-2) and interferon-alpha use cytokines to treat kidney cancer. However, newer medications, called immune checkpoint inhibitors, target specific proteins and restore the ability of immune cells to fight cancer. These medications can be used alone or in combination to target specific proteins that make up the tumor. For example, a study called CheckMate 214 showed that 11 percent of patients with stage IV kidney cancer who used nivolumab combined with ipilimumab — two immune checkpoint inhibitor medications — were able to achieve complete remission.

Bladder – Immunotherapy can be an option for patients with bladder cancer who are unable to tolerate chemotherapy, or when chemotherapy is ineffective. Bladder cancer is treated with immune checkpoint inhibitors that are given via intravenous (IV) infusion every two to three weeks. Patients may also receive immunotherapy as a maintenance treatment. The JAVELIN Bladder 100 trial showed a 50 percent improvement in overall survival for patients who received maintenance immunotherapy with the drug avelumab.

Prostate – Immunotherapy and targeted therapies are used to treat prostate cancer, but hormone therapy — also called androgen suppression therapy — is also an option. Hormone therapy reduces the number of male hormones called androgens so they can no longer fuel prostate cancer cells.

Hormone therapy can be delivered as an injection administered in the doctor’s office, or as a daily oral medication. Studies have shown that injectable medication results in hormone suppression in four to six weeks, while oral medication achieves a similar result in just one week.

John Theurer Cancer Center participates in leading-edge clinical trials, providing genitourinary cancer patients with access to some of the most promising therapies, prior to FDA approval.

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