Immunotherapies are therapies that stimulate the body’s immune system to attack cancer. There are two types of immunotherapy in use today for bladder cancer. In both cases, the treatment is given through a catheter directly into the bladder (intravesicular therapy).
The bacterium Bacillus calmette-guerin (BCG) is infused into the bladder through a catheter intermittently over a period of weeks to months. This stimulates the body’s natural defenses to recognize and attack cancer cells. For precancerous lesions and for cancers that have not invaded the bladder muscle, this can provide effective control and prevent development of more advanced cancers.
Interferons are naturally occurring substances in the body that can stimulate the immune cells to help eliminate cancer cells. As with BCG, interferons are infused directly into the bladder through a catheter. Interferon therapy may be used alone or in combination with BCG in cases where cancer persists or comes back despite BCG treatment.
New forms of immunotherapy for patients with invasive or metastatic cancer are under active investigation, including in several clinical studies offered at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.