Neoadjuvant chemotherapy plus cystectomy compared with cystectomy alone for locally advanced bladder cancer

N Engl J Med. 2003 Aug 28;349(9):859-66. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa022148.


Background: Despite aggressive local therapy, patients with locally advanced bladder cancer are at significant risk for metastases. We evaluated the ability of neoadjuvant chemotherapy to improve the outcome in patients with locally advanced bladder cancer who were treated with radical cystectomy.

Methods: Patients were enrolled if they had muscle-invasive bladder cancer (stage T2 to T4a) and were to be treated with radical cystectomy. They were stratified according to age (less than 65 years vs. 65 years or older) and stage (superficial muscle invasion vs. more extensive disease) and were randomly assigned to radical cystectomy alone or three cycles of methotrexate, vinblastine, doxorubicin, and cisplatin followed by radical cystectomy.

Results: We enrolled 317 patients over an 11-year period, 10 of whom were found to be ineligible; thus, 154 were assigned to receive surgery alone and 153 to receive combination therapy. According to an intention-to-treat analysis, the median survival among patients assigned to surgery alone was 46 months, as compared with 77 months among patients assigned to combination therapy (P=0.06 by a two-sided stratified log-rank test). In both groups, improved survival was associated with the absence of residual cancer in the cystectomy specimen. Significantly more patients in the combination-therapy group had no residual disease than patients in the cystectomy group (38 percent vs. 15 percent, P<0.001).

Conclusions: As compared with radical cystectomy alone, the use of neoadjuvant methotrexate, vinblastine, doxorubicin, and cisplatin followed by radical cystectomy increases the likelihood of eliminating residual cancer in the cystectomy specimen and is associated with improved survival among patients with locally advanced bladder cancer.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • Carcinoma, Transitional Cell / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Transitional Cell / mortality
  • Carcinoma, Transitional Cell / surgery*
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Cisplatin / administration & dosage
  • Cystectomy*
  • Doxorubicin / administration & dosage
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methotrexate / administration & dosage
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Survival Analysis
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / mortality
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Vinblastine / administration & dosage


  • Vinblastine
  • Doxorubicin
  • Cisplatin
  • Methotrexate

Supplementary concepts

  • M-VAC protocol