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Cisplatin-based chemotherapy is the first-line treatment for patients with advanced bladder cancer. However, as more than 50% of patients are ineligible for cisplatin-based chemotherapy, there is an urgent need to develop new drugs. Cuprous oxide nanoparticles (CONPs), as a new nano-therapeutic agent, have been proved to be effective in many kinds of tumors. In the present study, CONPs showed dose-dependent and time-dependent inhibitory effects on various bladder cancer cell lines (T24, J82,
5637, and UMUC3) and weak inhibitory effects on non-cancerous epithelial cells (SVHUCs). We found that CONPs induced cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in bladder cancer cells. We further demonstrated that the potential mechanisms of CONP-induced cytotoxicity were apoptosis, which was triggered by reactive oxygen species through activation of ERK signaling pathway, and autophagy. Moreover, the cytotoxic effect of CONPs on bladder cancer was confirmed both in orthotopic xenografts and subcutaneous nude mouse models, indicating that CONPs could significantly suppress the growth of bladder cancer in vivo. In further drug combination experiments, we showed that CONPs had a synergistic drug-drug interaction with cisplatin and gemcitabine in vitro, both of which are commonly used chemotherapy agents for bladder cancer. We further proved that CONPs potentiated the antitumor activity of gemcitabine in vivo without exacerbating the adverse effects, suggesting that CONPs and gemcitabine can be used for combination intravesical chemotherapy. In conclusion, our preclinical data demonstrate that CONPs are a promising nanomedicine against bladder cancer and provide good insights into the application of CONPs and gemcitabine in combination for intravesical bladder cancer treatment.