Bladder Cancer Research

Metastatic bladder cancer is bladder cancer that has progressed beyond the muscular layer of the bladder and has spread (metastasized) to other parts of the body. Common areas of metastasis are the lymph nodes, lung, skin, bones and liver. Some systemic chemotherapy drugs for bladder cancer those administered intravenously (IV) can slow the progression of metastatic tumors that have progressed to the soft tissue of the lymph, lung or skin. Little help is available for metastatic bladder cancer involving the bones and liver.

Cisplatin, Methotrexate, Vinblasine, Doxorubicin (MVAC)

New cancer research suggests that combining chemotherapeutic agents might double the survival time. A combination of chemotherapy drugs consisting of cisplatin, methotrexate, vinblastine, and doxorubicin (abbreviated MVAC) has shown promise in clinical studies in the treatment of metastatic bladder cancer and has become the treatment of choice. Areas of metastasis such as the skin, lungs and lymph have shown improvement when treated with the combination.

New Chemotherapeutic Agents

Studies on new chemotherapeutic agents are being performed all the time. Some of the drugs being tested are antifolates, taxanes, ifosfamide, gemcitabine, and gallium nitrate. These drugs are showing some effectiveness in the treatment of metastatic bladder cancer but can also have toxic side effects. Clinical studies are being done to discover the maximum effectiveness with minimal toxicity.

Photodynamic Therapy

Studies are also being done on drugs that respond to light. In photodynamic therapy a light-sensitive drug is administered intravenously through an IV. Over the course of a few days, the cancer cells in the bladder absorb the drug. During a cystoscopy, the doctor will shine a laser light inside the bladder. This activates the drug and selectively targets the cancer cells. Photodynamic therapy is still under study.

Bladder Cancer Clinical Trials

Many clinical trials are being conducted across the United States. Patients can volunteer to take part in clinical trials. These research studies test new treatments for bladder cancer including chemotherapy drugs and other combination treatments. Some risk is associated with clinical trials since the patient may be part of groundbreaking research into novel treatments for bladder cancer.

Early Detection and Prevention

Without any treatment, patients with advanced cancer may have a four to six-month survival expectancy. Some chemotherapeutic agents can prolong survival for up to three years following diagnosis. As with all cancer, early detection and prevention are the most important factors in slowing the progression and treating cancer. The survival rate for patients with superficial cancer who receive early treatment is over ninety percent. The elimination of preventable risk factors like smoking can also reduce the risk of bladder cancer significantly.


National Cancer Institute. (updated 2004). Bladder cancer (PDQ®): Treatment. Retrieved August 12, 2004, from

Parimoo, D.