Battling Bladder Cancer with Gemcitabine


SAN ANTONIO, TX (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Bladder cancer kills thousands each year and is notoriously difficult to treat, not to mention, expensive, because it can require invasive follow-up surgeries. 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: skin and kidney cancer, and more recently, cancer of the bladder.

“I might even have others because now I’ve quit looking,” Baker said.

Baker 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.

“And 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,” said Robert Svatek, MD, Urological Oncologist at UT Health San Antonio. (Read Full Interview)

Bladder cancer tumors are often scraped out, but that can cause small cells to implant in other sites in the bladder.

Dr. Svatek explained, “They can grow into tumors. This medication kills those floating cells and any other cells that may be trying to develop into cancer.”

“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, they were no longer there,” Baker told Ivanhoe.

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 forties and fifties, take care of it. Don’t hide from it, don’t run from it. Get it handled,” Baker said.

Doctors say some patients have to undergo four surgeries a year and 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.

Contributors to this news report include: Donna Parker, Field Producer; Bruce Maniscalco, Videographer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Hayley Hudson, Assistant Producer; Dave Harrison, Editor.


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BACKGROUND: Bladder cancer begins when cells in the bladder start to grow uncontrollably. As more cancer cells develop, they can form a tumor and spread to other areas of the body. Most bladder cancers start in the innermost lining of the bladder known as the urothelium or transitional epithelium. As the cancer grows into or through the other layers in the bladder wall, it becomes more likely to spread and harder to treat. Symptoms of bladder cancer include blood in the urine, having to urinate more often than usual, pain or burning during urination, feeling the need to go when the bladder is not full, having trouble urinating, lower back pain on one side, loss of appetite and weight loss, feeling tired or weak, swelling in the feet, and bone pain.



TREATMENT: Surgery is part of the treatment for most bladder cancers and can often remove early-stage bladder tumors. A major concern for people with early-stage bladder cancer is that new cancers often form in other parts of the bladder over time. The entire bladder can be removed to avoid this, but it can have major side effects. Other treatments may be given to reduce the risk of new cancers, such as chemotherapy. Whether or not other treatments are given, close follow-up is needed to look for signs of new cancers in the bladder.



NEW TECHNOLOGY: Robert Svatek, MD, attending Urologic Oncologist at UT Health San Antonio explained the simplicity of treating bladder cancer with Gemcitabine. “It sits in the bladder for an hour and then it’s removed and the patient goes home. “ Gemcitabine has been traditionally used against other cancers, but this procedure is unique because it’s applied directly to the bladder instead of the bloodstream. “This drug reduces the risk of tumors coming back by up to forty seven percent which is a large effect on the relapse rate.” According to Dr. Svatek, carcinogens in the blood are filtered out by the kidneys and then stored in the bladder as a reservoir, exposing the organ to continuous amounts of toxins. He says that’s why the bladder is particularly susceptible to developing cancer from these environmental toxins. Dr. Svatek points out bladder cancer generally affects people in their sixties and seventies as that is the exposure time needed for the cancer to develop.

(Source: Robert Svatek, MD)



Rosanne Fohn, Media Relations


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Doctor Q and A

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