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Year : 2013  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 108-109  

Intravesical bacillus Calmette-Guerin for bladder cancer: What is known? What is not? What is next?

Department of Surgery, Urology Division, Dallah Hospital, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Date of Web Publication3-Apr-2013

Correspondence Address:
Khaled Madbouly
Department of Surgery, Urology Division, Dallah Hospital, Riyadh 11652
Saudi Arabia
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PMID: 23798869

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How to cite this article:
Madbouly K. Intravesical bacillus Calmette-Guerin for bladder cancer: What is known? What is not? What is next?. Urol Ann 2013;5:108-9

How to cite this URL:
Madbouly K. Intravesical bacillus Calmette-Guerin for bladder cancer: What is known? What is not? What is next?. Urol Ann [serial online] 2013 [cited 2021 Sep 27];5:108-9. Available from: https://www.urologyannals.com/text.asp?2013/5/2/108/110009

It is 36 years since Morales described the use of intravesical bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) for non-muscle invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC). [1] During this period, thousands of patients were treated, hundreds of studies were performed as well as multiple dose and schedule modifications were tried. However, many questions regarding its use are still unanswered.

BCG remains the most effective intravesical therapy for NMIBC. BCG, but not chemotherapy, has been shown to reduce the overall risk of progression to muscle invasive disease, both in patients with high risk papillary tumors and in patients with carcinoma in situ (CIS). [2]

The precise mechanism of BCG action is not yet fully understood. Furthermore, the optimum dose is not yet known, and the optimum time to evaluate the response at 3 or 6 months is still debatable. The first intravesical BCG dose was empirically determined to be 120 mg (Frappier strain) based on the observation that the same dose was tolerated by intradermal scarification. [1] Several attempts have been made to find a lower dose that is as effective and less toxic than the standard dose. [3]

Similarly, the 6 weekly instillations of the induction course were empirically chosen by Morales et al. because the Frappier strain was packed in 6 separate vials and adverse events lasted less than 1 week. [1] Modifications including 2 weekly instillations, weekly instillation for 4 weeks, or a schedule of 2 instillations in weeks 1 and 6 have been suggested. [4],[5],[6]

The key role of maintenance in the efficacy has been emphasized in Southwest Oncology Group (SWAG) trial 8507 and in recent meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials. [2],[7] BCG was superior to mitomycin C (MMC) in the prevention of recurrences only in the trials with maintenance BCG. Recently, the benefit of maintenance BCG has been strongly questioned by Herr et al. [8]

A number of limitations arise when attempting to review the available literature regarding incidence, severity, and management of BCG adverse events. First, different descriptions of the same adverse event are mentioned in different studies. The typical example is the adverse event defined by lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS), which can be reported also as cystitis-like symptoms or split into urgency frequency, dysuria, etc., A second drawback is lack of a grading system for the severity of these adverse events.

The most common local side effects are drug-induced cystitis and a self-limited hematuria, which usually subsides in 48 hours. [9] Intravesical chemotherapy is generally better tolerated than BCG and is not affected by the small but actual risk of BCG sepsis and death. [3] A meta-analysis by Shelley et al. showed that 30% of patients receiving MMC developed local toxicity compared to 44% receiving BCG, with respect values of 12% and 19% for systemic side effects. However, the difference was not statistically significant. [10] Moreover, a significantly higher withdrawal rate of patients treated with BCG compared with MMC could not be demonstrated. Similar findings were reported in a randomized study that compared BCG to doxorubicin. Fever, pain on urination, and hematuria were more common with BCG, whereas allergic reactions such as rubor or itching were more frequent on doxorubicin. [3]

A long term follow-up is essential for any study about BCG role and effectiveness. Being in a dynamic field, by the time the study is performed and long term follow-up results are executed; many advances took place and introduced to the Urology armamentarium. For example, many of the available studies are lacking second TURB-T for high risk patients, immediate post TURB-T instillation, and fluorescent cystoscopy/TURB-T. Consequently, involved patients were undertreated according to today's standards and recurrence, and progression rates are higher than in current practice.

Thirty-sex years of BCG immunotherapy have passed with a lot of success, yet with an ample room for improvement. A deep insight into the mechanisms of BCG action to maximize its benefits at the least untoward effects and a thorough search in molecular and immunological markers that can predict patients with likelihood of BCG failure or with propensity for progression of their bladder cancer are two important aspects of research that will further enhance our knowledge regarding BCG.

   References Top

1.Morales A, Eidinger D, Bruce AW. Intracavitary bacillus Calmette-Guerin in the treatment of superficial bladder tumors. J Urol 1976;116:180-3.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Sylvester RJ, van der Meijden AP, Lamm DL. Intravesical bacillus Calmette-Guerin reduces the risk of progression in patients with superficial bladder cancer: A meta-analysis of the published results of randomized clinical trials. J Urol 2002;168:1964-70.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Gontero P, Bohle A, Malmstrom PU, O'Donnell MA, Oderda M, Sylvester R, et al. The role of bacillus Calmette-Guérin in the treatment of non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer. Eur Urol 2010;57:410-29.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Bassi P, Spinadin R, carando R, Balta G, Pagano F. Modified induction course: A solution to side-effects? Eur Urol 2000;37:31-2.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Zlotta AR, van Vooren JP, Huygen k, Drowart A, Decock M, Pirson M, et al. What is the optimal regimen for BCG intravesical therapy? Are six weekly instillations necessary? Eur Urol 2000;37:470-7.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.De Boer EC, Rooyakkers SJ, Schamhart DH, de Reijke TM, Kurth KH. BCG dose reduction by decreasing the instillation frequency: Effects on local Th1/Th2 cytokine responses in a mouse model. Eur Urol 2005;48:333-8.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Malmstrom PU, Sylvester RJ, Crawford DE, Friedrich M, Krege S, Rintala E, et al. An individual patient data meta-analysis of the long-term outcome of randomized studies comparing intravesical mitomycin C versus bacillus Calmette-Guerin for non-miscle-invasive bladder cancer. Eur Urol 2009;56:247-56.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Herr HW, Dalbagni G, Donat SM. Bacillus Calmette-Guérin without maintenance therapy for high-risk non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer. Eur Urol 2011;60:32-6.  Back to cited text no. 8
9.Koya MP, Simon MA, Soloway MS. Complications of intravesical therapy for urothelial cancer of the bladder. J Urol 2006;175:2004-10.  Back to cited text no. 9
10.Shelley MD, Wilt TJ, Court J, Coles B, Kynaston H, Mason MD. Intravesical bacillus Calmette-Guérin is superior to mitomycin C in reducing tumor-recurrence in high-risk superficial bladder cancer: A meta-analysis of randomized trials. BJU Int 2004;93:485-90.  Back to cited text no. 10


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