Cancer of the urothelium is the sixth most common cancer in the United States and is seen predominantly in men. Most cases of this disease present as non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC), with cancer recurrence or progression to muscle-invasive cancer in more than 50% of patients after initial therapy. NMIBC is an immune-responsive disease, as indicated by the use of intravesical bacillus Calmette-Guérin as treatment for more than 3 decades. More recently, immunotherapy has seen much progress in a variety of cancers, including advanced and metastatic bladder cancer, in which historical 5-year survival rates are approximately 15%. The advent of T-cell checkpoint inhibitors, especially those directed at programmed death 1 (PD-1) and its ligand (PD-L1), has had a significant effect on the therapy of advanced urothelial cancer. This had led to accelerated approval by the US Food and Drug Administration for atezolizumab and nivolumab in advanced urothelial cancer previously treated with platinum-based chemotherapy. In addition, level 1 evidence supports the use of pembrolizumab over single-agent tubulin-directed chemotherapy in the same setting. Several other treatments with immune-mediating mechanisms of action are in development and hold great promise, including monoclonal antibodies directed at other checkpoint molecules, oncolytic virus therapy, adoptive T-cell therapy, combination immunotherapy, and antibody-drug conjugates. This review focuses on the recent development of T-cell checkpoint inhibitors in advanced and metastatic urothelial cancer and addresses their potential use in combination. It also discusses a spectrum of novel immunotherapies with potential use in urothelial cancer.
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