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Targeted Therapy

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 changes in the cells that lead to cancer.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 systemic therapy like chemotherapy because targeted therapy focuses on specific parts of certain cells, without affecting 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 it may be appropriate for those whose cancer has progressed during or after previous treatment with platinum-based chemotherapy. It is part of a class of drugs called fibroblast growth factor receptor (FGFR) inhibitors. FGFRs are proteins found on bladder cancer cells that can facilitate their growth. 1 Some bladder cancers have changes in these FGFR genes that can affect how much of the FGFR proteins are made, and this is what the FGFR inhibitors target.1

Not all bladder cancers will have the same targets or be receptive to the same medications, so not all bladder cancers can be treated with Balversa. Genetic testing can help determine certain biological markers or see the genes, proteins, and other characteristics of the tumor to determine appropriate treatment.

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 targeted therapy drugs. This is not an allergic reaction since these changes are usually slow and take place over time. 3 Other side effects 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. 3 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.

Written by Jaime Rochelle Herndon
  1. Targeted Therapy Drugs for Cancer. American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/bladder-cancer/treating/targeted-therapy.html Published April 15, 2019. Accessed October 24, 2019.
  2. Bladder Cancer: Types of Treatment. Cancer.net. https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/bladder-cancer/types-treatment May 2019. Accessed October 24, 2019.
  3. Side Effects of Targeted Cancer Therapy Drugs. American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/treatment-types/targeted-therapy/side-effects.html Last revised June 6, 2016. Accessed October 24, 2019.