Targeted Therapy

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

Developing more precise and effective drugs for cancer is a goal for researchers, and targeted therapy drugs are another step toward that goal for bladder cancer treatment. Targeted therapies are different from other treatments like chemotherapy because they target specific changes or features in cancerous cells.1

Targeted therapies can target a cancer’s specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that enables the cancer to develop and grow.When targeted, the factors that facilitate the cancer’s survival are affected, helping to slow or stop the cancer.1,2

How is targeted therapy different from other treatments?

Targeted therapy is different than chemotherapy because targeted therapy focuses on specific parts of certain cancer cells, in an attempt to provide treatment for cancer that does less damage to healthy cells that do not have these factors. This can result in more precise treatment and fewer, less serious side effects. There are different kinds of targeted therapies, and not all targeted therapy drugs work in the same ways.1,2

What are targeted therapy drugs for bladder cancer?


Balversa (erdafitinib) is a targeted therapy for locally advanced or metastatic bladder cancer. It is not recommended for everyone, but may be appropriate for certain forms of bladder cancer that has progressed during or after previous treatment with platinum-based chemotherapy.2

Enfortumab vedotin

Padcev™ (enfortumab vedotin) is another targeted therapy for locally advanced or metastatic bladder cancer. It may be used in the treatment of patients with locally advanced or metastatic bladder cancer who received prior treatment with either a PD-1 inhibitor or a PD-L1 inhibitor (forms of immunotherapy), and platinum-based chemotherapy. It may also be used to treat patients with locally advanced or metastatic bladder cancer who are unable to receive cisplatin chemotherapy and have already received at least one previous treatment.2,3

Enfortumab vedotin may also be combined with pembrolizumab to treat people with locally advanced or metastatic bladder cancer who are unable to receive cisplatin chemotherapy.2,3

Sacituzumab govitecan

Trodelvy® (sacituzumab govitecan) is a targeted therapy that may be an option for people with bladder cancer who have already been treated with certain other medications. Before receiving Trodelvy, a person must have previously been treated with platinum-containing chemotherapy and a certain type of immunotherapy medicine. The cancer also must have started to spread locally (known as advanced cancer) or around the body (known as metastatic cancer).2

Genetic testing can help distinguish certain biological markers or see the genes, proteins, and other characteristics of the tumor to determine if certain targeted therapies would be suitable treatment options.2

What are possible side effects of targeted therapy?

With any kind of therapy or medication, there are always possible side effects. Not everyone will get every side effect, and some people may not have any. The severity of side effects can vary, so talk with your doctor about all possible side effects and when to call the doctor about side effects.

Side effects often go away or lessen after a period of time, but this can vary depending on the medicine and your personal reaction to the drug.

Skin rashes or other skin changes are common side effects of certain targeted therapy drugs. This is not an allergic reaction since these changes are usually slow and take place over time.4

Other side effects of certain targeted therapies can include:4

  • High blood pressure
  • Bleeding or clotting problems
  • Slow wound healing
  • Heart damage
  • Autoimmune reactions
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Mouth sores
  • Hair loss
  • Cough
  • Headache

These are not all the possible side effects of targeted therapies. Talk to your doctor about what to expect when taking these drugs. You also should call your doctor if you have any changes that concern you when taking targeted therapies.

If you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed, talk with your doctor about whether targeted therapies are safe for you.4

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

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