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Drugs Aging. 1999 Oct;15(4):307-33.

Epirubicin: a review of its intravesical use in superficial bladder cancer.

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  • 1Adis International Limited, Mairangi Bay, Auckland, New Zealand.


The anthracycline epirubicin has been investigated for intravesical use in patients with superficial bladder cancer. In multicentre, randomised trials, prophylaxis with intravesical epirubicin 30 to 80 mg after transurethral resection (TUR) was more effective than no prophylaxis in the prevention of disease recurrence. Intravesical prophylaxis with epirubicin was as effective as that with equivalent dosages of doxorubicin after TUR. Data are conflicting concerning the relative efficacy of intravesical epirubicin and bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) in patients at intermediate risk of recurrence after TUR, but epirubicin was less effective than BCG in those at high risk. The efficacy and tolerability of prophylaxis with epirubicin relative to that with mitomycin is not yet established. The efficacy of epirubicin as prophylaxis after TUR in combination with BCG or interferon-alpha-2b, or as treatment in patients with superficial bladder cancer has been evaluated in small, noncomparative trials, but requires clarification. Adverse events associated with intravesical epirubicin were generally mild and transient. The most common adverse events were localised to the bladder (cystitis, haematuria and urinary tract infection). Systemic adverse events (cardiac, haematological or related to hypersensitivity) were not reported in many trials of intravesical epirubicin, and when reported generally occurred in < or =5% of patients who received the drug. Intravesical epirubicin was generally tolerated as well as intravesical doxorubicin and was associated with a lower incidence of mild chemical cystitis in 1 clinical trial. The incidence of adverse events associated with intravesical epirubicin was markedly lower than that associated with intravesical BCG.


Intravesical epirubicin has shown efficacy in preventing disease recurrence after TUR of superficial bladder cancer. In comparison with equivalent dosages of doxorubicin, the efficacy of epirubicin for this indication is generally similar, and the tolerability profile may be more favourable. Epirubicin is less effective than BCG as intravesical prophylaxis in patients at high risk of recurrence after TUR; the relative efficacy of epirubicin and BCG after TUR in patients at intermediate risk is not yet clear. Intravesical epirubicin is generally tolerated better than BCG. Intravesical epirubicin may be used as prophylaxis after TUR in patients who are at low or intermediate risk of recurrence of superficial bladder cancer.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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