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Cancer Treat Rev. 2010 May;36(3):195-205. doi: 10.1016/j.ctrv.2009.12.005. Epub 2010 Jan 15.

Intravesical therapy for superficial bladder cancer: a systematic review of randomised trials and meta-analyses.

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Cochrane Unit, Research Department, Velindre NHS Trust, Whitchurch, Cardiff, Wales CF14 2TL, UK.



In 2002 there were estimated to be 357,000 new cases of bladder cancer worldwide and 145,000 deaths making bladder cancer the 9th most common malignancy globally. At diagnosis, 60-80% of tumours are superficial and endoscopic resection is the initial treatment for this disease. In patients with low, medium or high risk disease, about 20%, 40% and 90%, respectively, will develop tumour recurrence. To delay or prevent recurrence, intravesical therapy is routinely used. Commonly used intravesical agents include immunotherapy with BCG and chemotherapy with cytotoxics such as Mitomycin C, Adriamycin, Epirubicin and Gemcitabine. However, controversy exists as to which agent and schedule should be used.


An overarching search of the literature was used to identify relevant studies to assess the clinical benefit of intravesical therapy and provide clinical guidance in a comprehensive systematic review of randomised trials and meta-analyses of intravesical therapy for superficial bladder cancer. Findings and interpretation the search identified over 80 randomised trials and 11 meta-analyses. The extensive evidence suggests that an immediate post-operative instillation of a chemotherapeutic agent, such as Mitomycin C or Epirubicin, is effective in reducing tumour recurrence. In intermediate or high risk patients, further intravesical induction and maintenance therapy with BCG is recommended.


Intravesical chemotherapy with either Mitomycin C or Epirubicin would be an option for those patients failing or who are unsuitable for BCG therapy. Intravesical BCG is superior to chemotherapy in terms of complete response and disease-free survival. However, there is no conclusive evidence that one agent is superior in terms of overall survival.

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