Cancer of the urinary bladder is the fifth most prevalent solid tumour in the US. Urothelial carcinoma is the most common form of bladder cancer, accounting for about 90% of cases. About 25% of patients with bladder cancer have advanced disease (muscle-invasive or metastatic disease) at presentation and are candidates for systemic chemotherapy. Urothelial carcinoma is a chemo-sensitive disease, with a high overall and complete response rate to combination chemotherapy. In the setting of muscle-invasive urothelial carcinoma, use of neoadjuvant chemotherapy is associated with overall survival benefit. The role of adjuvant chemotherapy in this setting is yet to be validated. In the setting of metastatic disease, use of cisplatin-based regimens improves survival. However, despite initial high response rates, the responses are typically not durable leading to recurrence and death in the vast majority of these patients. Currently, there is no standard second-line therapy for patients in whom first-line chemotherapy for metastatic disease has failed. Many newer chemotherapeutic agents have shown modest activity in urothelial carcinoma. Improved understanding of molecular biology and pathogenesis of urothelial carcinoma has opened avenues for the use of molecularly targeted therapies, several of which are being tested in clinical trials. Currently, several novel drugs seem particularly promising including inhibitors of the epidermal growth factor receptor pathway, such as cetuximab, and inhibitors of tumour angiogenesis, such as bevacizumab and sunitinib. Development of reliable molecular predictive markers is expected to improve treatment decisions, therapy development and outcomes in urothelial carcinoma. Funding of and participation in clinical trials are key to advancing the care of urothelial cancer patients. Current and emerging strategies in the medical management of urothelial carcinoma are reviewed.