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Innovative research at UNC is helping to explore a potential new treatment for patients with a form of bladder cancer for which current treatment options are limited.

The term “BCG unresponsive, non-muscle invasive bladder cancer,” refers to a type of cancer that does not respond well to standard treatment, which involves instilling an immunotherapy drug known as BCG (Bacillus Calmette-Guerin) directly into the bladder to attack the tumor.

While this approach works for many patients, for some it is not effective. Unfortunately, some patients for whom this treatment fails despite multiple rounds of therapy may require a radical cystectomy, or removal of the bladder.

In an effort to find additional therapeutic options, a multi-center Phase 3 clinical trial named “QUILT” is exploring a potential new treatment that involves administering BCG combined with an experimental drug known as N-803 (Nogapendekin alfa inbakicept), with the goal of providing a synergistic therapeutic effect.

UNC is currently one of the only medical centers in the Southeast U.S. participating in the “QUILT” trial and providing patients with access to the novel drug combination being studied. If approved by the FDA, the new approach could potentially become a new first line treatment for this type of early stage bladder cancer.

Understanding Bladder Cancer Treatment

Bladder cancer is typically viewed as a chronic disease that is treated over a period of time, with recurrences requiring periodic additional treatments, according to Dr. Marc Bjurlin, lead investigator for the QUILT trial being conducted at UNC, and Director of Clinical Trials for UNC Urology.

He is one of a team of UNC Urology experts who are exploring the most advanced techniques and therapeutic options to treat patients with bladder cancer, as well as the full range of urologic diseases.

When cancer cannot be eliminated from the bladder, the primary goals are to

  1. Prevent the disease from progressing, and
  2. Keep it at a level that prevents the need for bladder removal.

While initial reports regarding the QUILT multi-center clinical trial are promising, patients should address specific questions regarding bladder cancer treatments with their physician to ensure proper context.

As of February, 2024 enrollment of new patients into the QUILT trial is wrapping up, and reporting of results for the trial on a nationwide basis is anticipated in the near future. Additional UNC trials in the same disease category are opening soon.

Ongoing Research and Innovation at UNC

The UNC Department of Urology is uniquely qualified to conduct advanced clinical research because it has the infrastructure needed to participate in complex clinical trials, offer patients the latest and most novel medications, and provide the supporting technology needed for implementation and results analysis.

“Our goal is to better enable patients to return to their normal function and lifestyle. So it’s very gratifying to have the opportunity to explore potentially better drugs and techniques, in the hopes that they can provide patients with improved treatment options and better outcomes.”

Marc Bjurlin, DO, MSc, FACOS
Director of Clinical Trials
Associate Professor of Urology

Marc Bjurlin, DO, MSc,


To Learn More…

If you would like to know more about urology-related clinical trials, please contact the UNC Department of Urology at 984-974-1315.

You can learn about the broad range of clinical trials being conducted at UNC via this link to Research For Me at UNC.

If you are interested in knowing more about urologic procedures or related urologic topics, you may visit our website’s Patient Care section, or meet with a provider by contacting one of our UNC Urology clinic locations.

About Our Ahead of the Curve Series

Our “Ahead of the Curve” blog series covers the latest and most effective treatments and techniques in UNC Urology patient care. Urology is a complex and rapidly evolving field, with new advancements and breakthroughs constantly emerging. In this series, we will explore a range of topics related to urology patient care, including advanced surgical procedures, innovative diagnostic techniques, and innovative medical therapies. Our goal is to provide you with an overview of the excellence and innovation happening right here at UNC Urology.

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