Targeted Therapy

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last review date: February 2022. | Last updated: March 2022

Developing more precise and effective drugs for cancer is a goal for researchers, and targeted therapy drugs are the latest 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 They can target a cancer’s specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that enables the cancer to develop and grow.2 When targeted, the factors that facilitate the cancer’s survival are affected, helping to slow or stop the cancer.

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 don’t 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.

What are targeted therapy drugs for bladder cancer?


Balversa (erdafitinib) is a targeted therapy for locally advanced or metastatic bladder cancer. It’s 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.

Enfortumab vedotin

Padcev™ (enfortumab vedotin) is another targeted therapy for locally advanced or metastatic bladder cancer. It may be utilized 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.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).

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.

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, when to call the doctor about side effects, and any other medication, including over-the-counter medications, vitamins, or supplements, that you take.

Side effects often go away or lessen after a period of time, but this can vary depending on the medication 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 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, and headache.4 Talk with your doctor about the specific side effects that have been associated with the targeted therapy you’re thinking about taking, as not every drug will have the same potential side effects.

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

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