Skip to main content

Targeted Therapy Drugs for Bladder Cancer

As researchers have learned more about the changes inside cells that cause cancer, they have developed newer drugs that target some of these changes. These targeted drugs work differently from other types of treatment, such as chemotherapy (chemo). They may work in some cases when other treatments don't. Targeted drugs also often have different types of side effects.

FGFR inhibitor

Fibroblast growth factor receptors (FGFRs) are a group of proteins on bladder cancer cells that can help them grow. In some bladder cancers, the cells have changes in FGFR genes (which control how much of the FGFR proteins are made). Drugs that target cells with FGFR gene changes (called FGFR inhibitors) can help treat some people with bladder cancer.

Erdafitinib (Balversa)

This FGFR inhibitor can be used to treat locally advanced or metastatic bladder cancer that has certain changes in the FGFR2 or FGFR3 gene, and that is still growing despite treatment with chemo. It is taken by mouth as tablets, once a day.

Common side effects include mouth sores, feeling tired, changes in kidney or liver function, diarrhea, dry mouth, changes in fingernails or toenails, changes in mineral levels in the blood (such as phosphate and sodium), loss of appetite, changes in how things taste, low red blood cell counts (anemia), dry skin, dry eyes, and hair loss. Other side effects can include hand-foot syndrome (redness, swelling, peeling or tenderness on the hands or feet), constipation, belly pain, nausea, and muscle pain.

This drug can also cause eye problems, which can sometimes be serious, so people taking this drug need to have regular eye exams and should tell their health care provider right away if they have blurred vision, loss of vision or other visual changes.

Antibody-drug conjugates

Antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) might also be considered a form of targeted therapy. These medicines are made up of a chemo drug linked to a monoclonal antibody, which is a lab-made version of an immune system protein that’s designed to attach to a specific target on cancer cells. Once inside the body, the antibody part of the ADC acts like a homing device, bringing the chemo directly to the cancer cells.

ADCs that can be used to treat bladder cancer include:

  • Enfortumab vedotin (Padcev)
  • Sacituzumab govitecan (Trodelvy)

For more on these drugs, see Immunotherapy for Bladder Cancer.

More information about targeted therapy

To learn more about how targeted drugs are used to treat cancer, see Targeted Cancer Therapy.

To learn about some of the side effects listed here and how to manage them, see Managing Cancer-related Side Effects.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

US Food and Drug Administration. FDA approves first targeted therapy for metastatic bladder cancer [Press Release]. Accessed at on April 15, 2019.

Last Revised: April 4, 2023

American Cancer Society Emails

Sign up to stay up-to-date with news, valuable information, and ways to get involved with the American Cancer Society.