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New bladder cancer treatment hailed as breakthrough

After over thirty years without a new treatment for the cancer, new breakthrough drugs for bladder cancer have been likened to ‘precision-guided bombs that hunt and destroy hostile cells’.

Test have shown that newly-developed immunotherapy drugs shrank tumours in nearly half of participating patients suffering from advanced stages of the disease. In 7% of cases, the tumours disappeared completely.

Trials to test the drug, known only as ‘investigational immunotherapy MPDL3280A’ revealed that an unprecedented 43 per cent of patients showed positive effects against the disease, also known as the ‘forgotten killer’ after receiving the immunotherapy drug.

10,400 people in the UK each year receive a bladder cancer diagnosis – the seventh most common cancer. It claims around 5,000 lives each year and survival rates continue to worsen, according to research published in the Journal of Clinical Urology.

Scientists have failed to find a new treatment for the disease for over three decades, but Professor Peter Johnson of Cancer Research UK said, “It’s exciting to see a potential new treatment for bladder cancer patients who have been waiting a long time for new therapies.”

“The progress we’ve made in harnessing the body’s own immune system to fight cancer is an important step forward. Cancer can only grow by finding a way to escape detection by the immune system. One way is to trigger a shut-off switch on immune cells when they get close to the immune system to recognise and destroy the cancer.”

Further tests of the drug are now being developed to identify patients who are the most receptive to the treatment.

Lead researcher Professor Thomas Powles said, “We are excited by these early stage results which show promising outcomes for patients with advanced bladder cancer. Bladder cancer is the seventh most common form of cancer in the UK and there have been no new treatment options for over thirty years.”

“It is therefore imperative that we continue to investigate emerging therapeutic options, particularly in advanced forms of the disease where the outlook for patients is particularly poor.”

Bladder cancer is especially difficult to treat, with a poorer outlook for people in the advanced stages of the condition than those treated earlier on.

The new class of immunotherapy drugs, developed by biotech company Roche, promises a fresh fight against the war on cancer and is expected to provide hope for patients and a windfall for drugs companies.

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