A combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy may slow the progress of metastatic bladder cancer and extend survival, a clinical trial suggests.
The current treatment for advanced bladder cancer is chemotherapy, but adding the immunotherapy drug atezolizumab (Tecentriq) appears to help more patients fight this disease. It strikes 81,000 Americans a year and kills 18,000.
"This is the first study that's been reported combining chemotherapy and immunotherapy for metastatic bladder cancer, and showing that there's a significant delay in the time that cancer grows and spreads with the combination approach versus the chemotherapy that we've been using by itself for many years," said lead researcher Dr. Matthew Galsky. He's a professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.
Michael Morigi, 59, of Staten Island, New York, is a participant in the trial, which was funded by drug makers F. Hoffmann-La Roche and Genentech. Morigi receives immunotherapy treatment once a month.
"I'm responding to it, amazingly, no side effects," he said.
The trial is just his latest chapter in his long-running battle with cancer, including kidney and bladder cancer. He's been fortunate, Morigi said.
"According to the American Cancer Society, I was only supposed to live five years," Morigi said. "But I'm going roughly 11 years, and I do basically everything that everybody else does."
His advice to other patients: Learn as much as you can about your cancer and treatment options, and seek out second and third opinions, because treatment varies according to the hospitals and doctors a patient chooses. Then, try to maintain a positive outlook, he added.
"I'm not saying I'm Superman, because I'm not, believe me," Morigi said. "I cried plenty of nights, and I was scared to death plenty at night. I would tell them, it's hard, you got to try your best to stay strong mentally."