Purpose of review: Bladder cancer continues to be one of the most common genitourinary malignancies. The mainstay of diagnosis remains cystoscopic visualization with transurethral biopsy or resection. As over two-thirds of bladder tumors recur, vigilant surveillance is required. Due to the invasiveness and expense of frequent cystoscopies and the lack of sensitivity of urinary cytology, especially for low-grade superficial lesions, novel molecular markers have been investigated as a means to detect bladder cancer noninvasively.
Recent findings: As our understanding of the pathogenesis of urothelial neoplasia improves, coupled with recent advances in molecular biological techniques, an array of new approaches to the diagnosis of bladder cancer has emerged. Several urine-based markers have been tested against the standard of urinary cytology with promising results. However, lack of standardization of technique and heterogeneity of bladder cancer itself may hinder the widespread dissemination of these diagnostic aids.
Summary: A host of new molecular markers based on the pathogenesis of bladder cancer have been investigated, such as telomerase, survivin, and multitarget fluorescence in situ hybridization, which may eventually improve detection and management of urothelial malignancies. By improving the sensitivity of urinary cytology for low-grade superficial lesions and detecting recurrent disease noninvasively early in its course, these new molecular markers might someday allow changes in the way bladder cancer is diagnosed and followed. At the present time, however, no single molecular marker provides 100% accuracy. Perhaps panels utilizing the most promising of these markers may alter bladder cancer detection and management policy.