Objective: Standard treatment of muscle-infiltrated transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) of the urothelium consists of radical cystectomy. In some cases there is a delay between the initial diagnosis and a definitive treatment being administered. The objective of this study was to determine the effect of the time window between evidence of muscle invasion and radical cystectomy on the pathological stage and progression-free survival.
Material and methods: Between February 1992 and August 2002, 239 radical cystectomies were carried out as a result of TCC of the bladder. In a total of 189 patients (79%), cystectomy was carried out due to muscle-infiltrated TCC with no evidence of distant metastases (>/=T2, M0). The time between the diagnosis of muscle invasion and cystectomy was determined for all of these patients, who were then divided into two groups on the basis of a 3-month cut-off period. Univariate and multivariate analyses were used to determine the effect of the time period on clinical factors and progression-free survival.
Results: The average age of the patients was 63 (range 35-80) years. A median follow-up of 40 months showed a progression-free survival rate of 49% after 5 years. The average time between the diagnosis of muscle invasion and cystectomy was 1.8 (0.3-12.1) months. For a time window of >3 months, 30/42 patients (72%) showed signs of extravesical tumor growth and/or tumor-positive lymph nodes, compared to 89/147 patients (60%) (p = 0.198) for a time window of </=3 months. In terms of the distribution of tumor stages according to the time groups, there were significantly more pT4 stage tumors in patients with delayed cystectomy (p = 0.009). Patients with a time interval of </=3 months between diagnosis of muscle invasion and cystectomy had a significantly better progression-free survival rate (55%) than those with a longer time window (34%) (p = 0.04). In contrast to lymph node status, clinical stage, pathological tumor stage and differentiation level, the prognostic relevance of the time window fell just short of the significance level in Cox's multivariate regression analysis (p = 0.057). Lymph node status (p < 0.001) and pathological tumor stage (p = 0.05) were the only independent prognostic parameters which could be used to predict progression-free survival.
Conclusion: Patients with a time window of >3 months between diagnosis of muscle invasion and radical cystectomy were associated with an advanced pathological stage and a poorer progression-free survival. These results underline the need for early cystectomy within the 3-month period between diagnosis of muscle invasion and cystectomy.