Bladder cancer: advances in biology and treatment
Integrating systemic chemotherapy in the treatment of patients with invasive bladder cancer is essential to improve survival because the majority of deaths are from systemic relapse. However, as experience with invasive tumors evolves, it is clear that treatment recommendations need to be tailored to an individual patient based on metastatic risk and, ideally, sensitivity to treatment. For those with tumors that do not extend through the bladder wall, standard therapy remains radical surgery. Nevertheless, encouraging results are being reported with increasing frequency using strategies designed to preserve bladder function through a variety of means. Crucial to the recommendation of a specific approach for an individual is improving our ability to define prognosis prior to initiating treatment. Patients with a high risk of systemic recurrence generally require chemotherapy, although the optimal route of integration, pre vs. post-operatively, remains controversial. In those patients who require it, chemotherapy can be administered more safely with the concomitant administration of hematopoietic growth factors. These factors alone, however, are unlikely to improve overall survival. Crucial to the latter effort will be the identification of more active agents, improving our understanding of intrinsic and acquired resistance to chemotherapy, and better delivery of the chemotherapeutic agents currently available. Of equal importance, is the enrollment of patients in clinical trials. These can include large scale randomized comparisons with using a survival end-point, as well as new therapies in high risk populations. The latter would include patients with advanced T3b, T4 and N+ disease, with a high risk of metastatic failure, and low complete response proportions to presently available regimens.