Bladder cancer kills thousands each year and is notoriously difficult to treat. It’s also expensive because it can require invasive follow-up surgeries.
According to a report from WNDU, a new drug called gemcitabine shows promise in battling this troubling cancer so that it doesn’t recur.
Steve Baker has been battling cancer for almost 25 years. First it was skin and kidney cancer, and then it was cancer of the bladder.
“I might even have others because now I’ve quit looking,” Baker says.
Steve was one of 406 patients in a clinical trial, some of whom were given this new drug which fights low-grade invasive cancer of the urinary system.
“We used it in kind of a unique form. We put it into the bladder immediately after removing the bladder tumor. The medication is gemcitabine,” explains Robert Svatek, MD, a urological oncologist at UT Health San Antonio.
Bladder cancer tumors are often scraped out, but that can cause small cells to implant in other sites in the bladder.
“And they can grow into tumors. This medication kills those floating cells and any other cells that may be trying to develop into cancer,” Svatek explains.
“They came back, I want to say three more times. And Dr. Svatek took care of those. And when this last one came up, he called me back and, in a month, or two months, and when he looked for them and they were no longer there,” Baker explains.
Gemcitabine stops replication of tumor cells in bladder cancer. The study published last fall shows that gemcitabine reduced the risk of recurrence by 34 percent in those with low grade tumors. Now the drug is being routinely used and is readily available, inexpensive and safe.
“For younger people, especially in their 40s and 50s, take care of it. Don’t hide from it, don’t run from it. Get it handled,” Baker advises.
Doctors say some patients have to undergo four surgeries a year.
If physicians can cut down on those recurrences by administering gemcitabine, it will save many people additional surgeries, continued pain, and will shorten recovery time.