Bladder cancer research

Researchers are looking at better ways to diagnose and treat bladder cancer.

Go to Cancer Research UK’s clinical trials database if you are looking for a trial for bladder cancer in the UK. You need to talk to your specialist if there are any trials that you think you might be able to take part in.

When in the trials database, click on both the recruiting and closed tabs at the top of the page.

Some of the trials on this page have now stopped recruiting people. It takes time before the results are available. This is because the trial team follow the patients for a period of time and collect and analyse the results. We have included this ongoing research to give examples of bladder cancer research.

Research and clinical trials

All cancer treatments have to be fully researched before everyone can use them. This is so we can be sure that:

  • they work
  • they work better than the treatments already available
  • they are safe

Research into diagnosis and early detection of bladder cancer

Researchers want to improve ways of diagnosing bladder cancer. And to help diagnose bladder cancer earlier.

Urine tests

Doctors normally looking directly into the bladder to diagnose bladder cancer (cystoscopy). They would prefer a less invasive test than cystoscopy. They are developing urine tests that may help:

  • diagnose a new bladder cancer
  • look for cancer that has come back
  • screen for bladder cancer in people who don’t have symptoms

Doctors currently use some urine tests together with cystoscopy to diagnose bladder cancer. These tests include:

  • NMP22 test – this measures a type of protein called Nuclear Matrix Protein (NMP)
  • UroVysion test – this looks for chromosome changes often seen in bladder cancer cells
  • ImmunoCyt test – this looks for certain substances often found in some cancer cells

Researchers are looking at some types of urine tests in clinical trials. These tests include:

  • MCM5 test – this looks for the MCM5 protein found in dividing cells
  • biomarker tests – these are substances in the urine or blood

The best way to diagnose bladder cancers accurately is still cystoscopy and biopsy. But some doctors are very hopeful that they may be able to use urine tests in the future. This would mean that people who have had bladder cancer may not have to keep having cystoscopies. 

Dogs detecting cancer

Researchers are looking at whether dogs can help diagnose bladder cancer. They want to see whether dogs can be trained to smell bladder cancer in samples of urine.

Research into treatment for bladder cancer

Treatment decisions

Some people have to make a decision about what treatment they have. Researchers want to find out more about how people with bladder cancer make these treatment decisions. They want to understand more about what the most important factors are.


Researchers are looking at ways to improve surgery. Research includes:

  • comparing open surgery to robotic surgery to remove your bladder
  • testing a blue light during surgery to remove non muscle invasive bladder cancer
  • using a detailed MRI scan instead of a TURBT to help diagnose some bladder cancers


Researchers are looking at how they plan radiotherapy. They want to target your bladder cancer more accurately. They want to give the highest dose of radiotherapy possible to the cancer. And get less healthy tissue in the treatment area. This could mean you have fewer side effects.

You might have radiotherapy combined with chemotherapy (chemoradiotherapy). Researchers are looking at combining chemoradiotherapy with immunotherapy drugs. They want to find out if this makes the treatment work better.


Past trials found which chemotherapy drugs work well for bladder cancer. And when to give them. Current trials are looking more closely at:

  • adding chemotherapy to BCG for non muscle invasive bladder cancer
  • different chemotherapy drugs, such as cabazitaxel
  • combining chemotherapy with immunotherapy for advanced (metastatic) bladder cancer

Doctors often give chemotherapy or BCG treatment directly into the bladder. Researchers have been looking at heating the chemotherapy to see if it works better. This is called hyperthermia treatment. 

Targeted cancer drugs and immunotherapy

Targeted cancer drugs work by ‘targeting’ those differences that help a cancer cell to grow and survive. Some seek out and destroy cancer cells. Others help the body's immune system to attack the cancer. So some of these drugs are also called immunotherapies.

Researchers are looking at targeted drugs and immunotherapy:

  • combined with other treatments such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy or BCG treatment
  • for non muscle invasive bladder cancer
  • before and after surgery for muscle invasive bladder cancer
  • for advanced (metastatic) bladder cancer

There are many clinical trials looking at different targeted and immunotherapy drugs, including:

  • pembrolizumab
  • nivolumab
  • cabozantinib
  • rucaparib
  • enzalutamide
  • atezolizumab
  • durvalumab
  • erdafitinib
  • cetrelimab

Research into preventing cancer coming back


There is a risk of bladder cancer coming back after treatment. You could also develop another cancer in the bladder or in other parts of the urinary tract system.

Researchers are looking at whether adding the nutrients selenium, vitamin E or both to your diet can help stop early bladder cancer coming back after treatment.

  • EAU Guidelines on Non-muscle-invasive Bladder Cancer (TaT1 and CIS)
    M Babjuk and others
    European Association of Urology, 2022

  • EAU Guideline on Muscle-invasive and Metastatic Bladder Cancer
    J A Witjes and others
    European Association of Urology, 2022

  • Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Database
    Accessed January 2023

    Accessed January 2023

  • The information on this page is based on literature searches and specialist checking. We used many references and there are too many to list here. Please contact with details of the particular issue you are interested in if you need additional references for this information.

Last reviewed: 
05 Jan 2023
Next review due: 
05 Jan 2026

Related links