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Frontline Immunotherapy on the Horizon in Bladder Cancer

Shannon Connelly
Published: Wednesday, Mar 29, 2017

Evan Y. Yu, MD

Evan Y. Yu, MD

Immunotherapy combination regimens may represent the future of urothelial carcinoma treatment, according to Evan Y. Yu, MD, as it may be a novel approach to induce higher and more durable response rates in patients.

, Yu discussed the current treatment options for metastatic urothelial carcinoma, the unmet needs that still exist in this space, and the possibilities for the future treatment landscape.

OncLive: What are the current treatment options in metastatic urothelial carcinoma, and what needs still have to be addressed with regard to treatment?

Yu: Right now, the first-line option for metastatic urothelial bladder cancer is still platinum-based chemotherapy—gemcitabine with cisplatin or gemcitabine with carboplatin. That may change in the near future as there are some frontline studies in patients who are cisplatin-ineligible, and there are a couple agents that may get FDA approval in that setting in the near future. But at this point in time, it’s still platinum-based chemotherapy for first-line.

There’s certainly an unmet need in the fact that there is no third-line approved therapy. There’s certainly an unmet need that the IO agents still only induce response rates in maybe 20% of patients and stable disease in up to another 15%.  I generally tell patients that 1 out of 3 will have some sort of clinical benefit from an IO agent. How can we make it so that those patients who currently wouldn’t receive clinical benefit can respond in the future? Perhaps we need to do combination therapy. There certainly are combination trials that are ongoing that have promise for the future.

What impact has immunotherapy made in the field of urothelial carcinoma?

Immunotherapy has made a huge impact on the field. First off, we didn’t have any agents that induced an overall survival benefit, and now we do. The first one was pembrolizumab. Second off, these agents are pretty low in toxicity. Other than the few patients who get immune-mediated side effects, they’re generally less toxic than cytotoxic chemotherapy. Thirdly, we see durable clinical benefit—people that respond or have stable disease resulting in long-term clinical benefit that may last 1-2 years or more. We just have not seen this with traditional chemotherapy. Last of all, we usually don’t see stable disease with chemotherapy. Either you respond or you progress, so stable disease is something new that has occurred with IO agents.

Where do you envision the treatment landscape for urothelial carcinoma will go in the next few years?

I think in the treatment landscape, IO agents will likely find their way as first-line therapy. First, they’ll get it in the first-line for patients who are cisplatin-ineligible, but there are trials underway that are comparing IO agents directly to chemotherapy. They may find themselves in first-line in combination with chemotherapy or as a single agent. However, we have to have some caution with single-agent IO therapy in the first-line, because there is a subset of patients that harbor rapidly progressive disease that could still be better served by chemotherapy since the response rates are initially higher with chemotherapy.

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TitleExpiration DateCME Credits
Community Practice Connections™: New Directions in Advanced Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Emerging Evidence of ImmunotherapyAug 13, 20191.5
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