Nivolumab for the treatment of bladder cancer

The checkpoint inhibitor nivolumab has recently demonstrated effectiveness against metatstatic urothelial carcinoma. Nivolumab is a fully human monoclonal antibody blocking PD-1 and thereby enhancing antitumour immune mechanisms. Areas covered: In this review, the authors describe the treatment of metastatic bladder cancer with nivolumab against the background of the standard treatment with cisplatin-based chemotherapy which can prolong overall survival from 3-6 months in untreated cases to over one year. Different combinations of cisplatin-based chemotherapy can further prolong survival by only a few months. The authors highlight that cancer immunotherapy by checkpoint inhibition offers potential to further prolong patient survival with limited and well manageable toxicity although serious immune-related adverse events may occur. Expert opinion: The response rate to nivolumab and other checkpoint inhibitors after first line chemotherapy remains under 30%. Patients unfit for cisplatin may benefit from first-line cancer immunotherapy. It is unclear which patients will respond and PD-1/PD-L1 expression alone is not a sufficiently reliable response marker. Treatment costs are extreme and further trials will have to clarify which subset of patients in which context of management will have a substantial benefit.

Expert opinion on biological therapy. 2017 Jul 24 [Epub ahead of print]

Oliver W Hakenberg

a Department of Urology , Rostock University , Rostock , Germany.