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Beyond the Emergence of Targeted Therapies and the Treatment of Bladder Cancer

By Peter Hofland, Ph.D and Sonia Portillo, B.Sc

This week The Onco’Zine Brief comes from Chicago, Illinois and the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) being held May 31 – June 4, 2019. In this episode Peter Hofland talks with a Adil Akhtar, MD, an Oncologist and Palliative Care Expert, Associate Professor, Department of Medical Oncology & Hematology at the Oakland University-William Beaumont School of Medicine. He is also director, of Inpatient Clinical Operations at the Karmanos-McLaren Oakland Cancer Center in Michigan and Chief, Division of Palliative & End of Life Care, Michigan Health Professionals. Bladder Cancer Bladder cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the U.S., with 81,000 new cases diagnosed each year, and 17,000 deaths annually. The most common type of bladder cancers arises from the transitional epithelium and are called transitional cell or urothelial carcinomas. Typically, the patient’s choice of treatment will depend on the invasion of the muscle layer of the bladder, and has traditionally involved surgery, chemotherapy and/ or radiation treatment. Earlier this year, a new drug called erdafitinib, marketed as Balversa® (The Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson), was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This drug is part of a new crop of potentially life-saving drugs is radically changing what the future of cancer care looks like— and improving outcomes for patients suffering from some of the most prevalent cancers. In the United States erdafitinib, the first-ever personalized treatment for bladder cancer, is one of these drugs. Immunotherapy is also increasingly used in advanced stages, but until now there have been no approved targeted agents for bladder cancer. The way physicians approach the disease is rapidly transforming. Tailoring treatment in accordance with the patient’s precise genetic mutation or biomarker is quickly becoming the new standard in cancer care. This is in contrast to the traditional way of thinking in which cancer was specifically focusing on an organ or body part (i.e. brain cancer, bladder cancer, breast cancer, etc.). The use of targeted therapies in bladder cancer is still an emerging field of research— but the apparent success of erdafitinib showcases the promise they may hold. Palliative Care Expert. In addition to being an oncologist, Dr. Akhtar’s medical specializations also include, palliative care and end of life/hospice care. He believes that everyone has a right to decide what kind of medical care they want. He is very passionate about the healthcare living will and advance care planning. He has founded Advance Care Now to help people understand and make decisions about advance care planning.

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