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Urothelial Carcinoma or Bladder Cancer

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If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with urothelial carcinoma or bladder cancer, you may be trying to learn as much as possible about the disease and its treatments. Read on to find out more.

The information on this website should be discussed with your healthcare professional and does not replace their advice.

What is urothelial carcinoma?

Urothelial carcinoma is the most common type of bladder cancer. It starts in the urothelial cells that line the bladder wall. The bladder is a hollow sac that stores urine (pee).

Another name for urothelial carcinoma is transitional cell carcinoma.

Urothelial carcinoma is more common in men than in women.

Treatment with KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab)

Your doctor will plan your treatment according to your individual circumstances. These include the type of cancer, how far your cancer has spread through the layers of your bladder and your general health.

KEYTRUDA is an immunotherapy that may be used to treat urothelial carcinoma when it has spread beyond the bladder and:

  • You are not able to receive a particular platinum-containing chemotherapy and your tumour tests positive for PD-L1; or
  • You are not able to receive any platinum-containing chemotherapy; or
  • You have received platinum-containing chemotherapy.

KEYTRUDA may also be used to treat bladder cancer if:

  • Your cancer has not spread to nearby tissues in the bladder, but is at high-risk of spreading; and
  • You have tried treatment with an immunostimulant and it did not work; and
  • You are not able to or have decided not to have surgery to remove your bladder.

Talk to your doctor to see if KEYTRUDA may be right for you.

KEYTRUDA is not funded in New Zealand for the treatment of patients with urothelial carcinoma or bladder cancer.


Expand for more information on terms and definitions related to urothelial carcinoma.

Terms you may find useful:

The most common type of cancer. It is formed by epithelial cells. These cells cover the inside and outside of our body – for example, the urothelial cells lining the bladder wall.

Surgery to remove of part or all of the bladder.

High-grade bladder cancer
A fast-growing cancer that may spread into the bladder muscle and to other parts of the body.

A doctor who specialises in treating cancer with drug therapies – for example, chemotherapy and immunotherapy.

A protein that may protect cancer cells from being found by the immune system.

The expected outcome of your cancer. Your doctor is the best person to ask about your prognosis, but it is not possible for anyone to predict the exact course of cancer.

A new or abnormal growth of tissue on or in the body. Tumours can be benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

Urinary system
System that remove waste from the blood and then from the body in the form of urine (pee). It includes the kidneys and bladder.

A doctor who treats diseases of urinary system.

Urothelial cells
Cells that line many organs, including the bladder. Also called transitional cells.

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Questions to ask your doctor

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Patient Resources


Cancer Council Australia. 2022. Understanding Bladder Cancer. A guide for people with cancer, their families and friends.
Available at:
Accessed on 16/01/2023

Cancer Council Australia. 2021. Understanding Immunotherapy. A guide for people affected by cancer.
Available at:
Accessed on 02/06/2022


KEYTRUDA Consumer Medicine Information

National Cancer Institute. 2021. What is Cancer?
Available at:
Accessed on 01/09/2023

National Cancer Institute. Dictionary of Cancer Terms. PD-L1.
Available at:
Accessed on 25/08/2020

NZ-KEY-00879. TAPS DA 2339KN TAPS NP20132. First Issued February 2024.