From Rags to Riches: Bladder Cancer Research Rife With New Approaches

For decades, research into bladder cancer treatments was stagnant, but now science has moved into a period rife with new approaches — immunotherapy chief among them.
BY ARLENE WEINTRAUB
PUBLISHED: SEPTEMBER 27, 2016
When Lou Pagano learned in early 2014 that the cancer that had started in his bladder had spread to his liver, spine and some lymph nodes, he vowed to do everything he could to beat the disease.
“It’s keeping the cancer in check. I have a good quality of life.” - Lou Pagano, patient
When Lou Pagano learned in early 2014 that the cancer that had started in his bladder had spread to his liver, spine and some lymph nodes, he vowed to do everything he could to beat the disease.

Chemotherapy helped to shrink his tumors, but side effects such as neuropathy and fatigue were hard to endure, and new metastases were forming. Then, in the fall of 2014, Pagano entered a trial of a new drug, called Tecentriq (atezolizumab), which is designed to embolden patients’ own immune systems to fight their cancers.

During the trial, Pagano received a 30-minute infusion of the drug every three weeks at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson in Philadelphia. His tumors stopped growing, and he was amazed that, aside from a bit of cramping in his hands, he seemed to have few noticeable side effects from the drug. Tecentriq was approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in May 2016, and Pagano is continuing on the drug indefinitely.

“It’s keeping the cancer in check. I have a good quality of life,” says Pagano, 62, who has been married for 40 years and recently celebrated the birthdays of three out of four of his grandchildren, the youngest of whom was born a year after his cancer diagnosis. “Everyone is thrilled.”



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