Gene Therapy for NMIBC

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: January 2023

Bladder cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer. Most people with bladder cancer have non-muscle invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC) at the time of diagnosis. This is a type of cancer that has grown through the lining of the bladder but has not gotten to the layer of surrounding muscle. People with NMIBC tend to have high rates of the cancer coming back (recurrence) and are at risk of the cancer traveling to other parts of the body (metastasis).1

First-line treatment for NMIBC typically involves Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) therapy. However, this treatment does not work for everyone. Many people with NMIBC who try BCG will have a good response, but some may eventually have a recurrence. Some people’s bladder cancer becomes unresponsive to BCG treatment over time.1,2

When someone’s cancer becomes BCG-unresponsive, surgery to remove the bladder is the most effective treatment. However, there are potential risks of surgery, so not everyone wants to pursue this option. This leaves a gap in treatment and a need for a safe and effective therapy for people with BCG-unresponsive NMIBC.2,3

How does gene therapy work?

Gene therapy works by changing how cells in your body work. In the case of cancer treatment, gene therapy can change or stop the unhealthy actions of cancerous cells.4

Gene therapy is delivered to your cells using a carrier called a vector. This carrier is what takes a new gene into the cells to begin to change its behavior.4

Examples of gene therapy for bladder cancer

Currently, there is only 1 gene therapy approved to treat certain forms of bladder cancer – Adstiladrin®.1

What are the possible side effects?

Side effects of gene therapy can vary depending on the specific therapy you receive. The most common side effects of Adstiladrin include:1,3

  • Bladder discharge (from where the medicine is given)
  • Fatigue
  • Bladder spasms or an urgent need to urinate
  • Blood in the urine
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Painful urination

These are not all the possible side effects of gene therapy. Talk to your doctor about what to expect when having gene therapy for bladder cancer. They can help you decide which treatment options are best for you.

Other things to know

Generally, gene therapies are cutting-edge treatments that have not yet been tested on people who are pregnant or breastfeeding. So, doctors may not recommend gene therapy for these groups.3

Before beginning treatment for bladder cancer, tell your doctor about all your health conditions and any other drugs, vitamins, or supplements you are taking. This includes over-the-counter drugs.

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