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Carcinogenesis. 2006 Mar;27(3):361-73. Epub 2005 Dec 13.

Molecular subtypes of bladder cancer: Jekyll and Hyde or chalk and cheese?

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Cancer Research UK Clinical Centre, St James's University Hospital, Beckett Street, Leeds LS9 7TF, UK.


Cancer of the bladder shows divergent clinical behaviour following diagnosis and it has been proposed that two major groups of tumours exist that develop via different molecular pathways. Low-grade, non-invasive papillary tumours recur frequently, but patients with these tumours do not often suffer progression of disease to muscle invasion. In contrast, tumours that are invading muscle at diagnosis are aggressive and associated with significant mortality. Molecular studies have identified distinct genetic, epigenetic and expression changes in these groups. However, it is not yet clear whether there is direct progression of low-grade superficial tumours to become invasive (a Jeckell and Hyde scenario) or whether in those patients who apparently progress from one form of the disease to the other, different tumour clones are involved and that the two tumour groups are mutually exclusive ('chalk and cheese'). If the latter is true, then attempts to identify molecular markers to predict progression of low-grade superficial bladder tumours may be fruitless. Similarly, it is not clear whether other subgroups of tumours exist that arise via different molecular pathways. There is now a large amount of molecular information about bladder cancer that facilitates examination of these possibilities. Some recent studies provide evidence for the existence of at least one further group of tumours, high-grade superficial papillary tumours, which may develop via a distinct molecular pathway. Patients with such tumours do show increased risk of disease progression and for these there may exist a real progression continuum from non-invasive to invasive. If this is the case, definition of the molecular signature of this pathway and improved understanding of the biological consequences of the events involved will be pivotal in disease management.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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