Intravesical Evans strain BCG therapy: quantitative immunohistochemical analysis of the immune response within the bladder wall

J Urol. 1992 Jun;147(6):1636-42. doi: 10.1016/s0022-5347(17)37668-1.


Previous studies have demonstrated that is is the local immune response which is of importance for the anti-tumour activity of BCG therapy. We have investigated this by quantitative immunohistochemical analysis of serial bladder mucosal biopsies taken before, during and after an eight week course of intravesical Evans strain BCG therapy and three monthly thereafter in 16 patients (15 extensive CIS and one extensive G2pTa papillary tumour). This particular group of patients had a 67% complete response rate at six months post-treatment. The main findings on immunohistochemical analysis were the universal induction of MHC Class II antigens by urothelial cells which was statistically significant up to 6 months after completion of therapy, coupled with a T cell dominated cystitis. Increases in CD3+ T cell infiltration of the lamina propria and that of the CD4+ "Helper" subset which predominated were significant up to 3 months post-therapy and these cells showed evidence of increased immunological activation as shown by increased interleukin-2 receptor and MHC Class II antigen expression. There were also significant increases in CD68+ macrophage and the incidence of CD22+ B cell aggregates but CD57+ NK cells were sparse both before and after therapy. The degree of mononuclear cell infiltration for all markers examined (except CD57) was significantly greater in those biopsies in which the urothelial cells expressed MHC Class II antigens than in those that did not. Also the degree of T cell infiltration (CD3, CD4 and CD8) was significantly greater in the eight patients deemed to have had a complete response compared to those seven with a partial response or treatment failure. These results are discussed in terms of possible mechanisms of action for BCG therapy and in particular the role of enhanced antigen presentation by tumour cells.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Intravesical
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • BCG Vaccine / administration & dosage
  • BCG Vaccine / adverse effects
  • BCG Vaccine / therapeutic use*
  • Carcinoma in Situ / immunology*
  • Carcinoma in Situ / pathology
  • Carcinoma in Situ / therapy
  • Cystitis / etiology
  • HLA Antigens / immunology
  • Humans
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / pathology
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / therapy


  • BCG Vaccine
  • HLA Antigens