Role of urothelial cells in BCG immunotherapy for superficial bladder cancer

Br J Cancer. 2004 Aug 16;91(4):607-12. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6602026.


Intravesical instillation of Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) is used for the treatment of superficial bladder cancer, both to reduce the recurrence rate of bladder tumour and to diminish the risk of progression. Since its first therapeutic application in 1976, major research efforts have been directed to decipher the exact mechanism of action of the BCG-associated antitumour effect. Bacillus Calmette-Guérin causes an extensive local inflammatory reaction in the bladder wall. Of this, the massive appearance of cytokines in the urine of BCG-treated patients stands out. Activated lymphocytes and macrophages are the most likely sources of these cytokines, but at present other cellular sources such as urothelial tumour cells cannot be ruled out. Bacillus Calmette-Guérin is internalised and processed both by professional antigen-presenting cells and urothelial tumour cells, resulting in an altered gene expression of these cells that accumulates in the presentation of BCG antigens and secretion of particular cytokines.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / pharmacology*
  • BCG Vaccine / immunology*
  • BCG Vaccine / pharmacology*
  • Cytokines / pharmacology
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local*
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Urothelium / cytology*


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • BCG Vaccine
  • Cytokines