History of bacillus Calmette-Guerin and bladder cancer: an immunotherapy success story

J Urol. 2008 Jan;179(1):53-6. doi: 10.1016/j.juro.2007.08.122. Epub 2007 Nov 13.


Purpose: We review how the bacillus Calmette-Guerin vaccine evolved to become standard therapy for superficial bladder cancer.

Materials and methods: We reviewed the historical literature describing the origin of the bacillus Calmette-Guerin vaccine as an anticancer agent and its singular success as the most effective immunotherapy used against a human neoplasm.

Results: The association between tuberculosis and cancer, and the demonstration that bacillus Calmette-Guerin invoked immunological reactivity, inhibiting tumor growth in experimental animal models, led to clinical trials showing that intravesical bacillus Calmette-Guerin eradicated and prevented recurrence of superficial bladder tumors.

Conclusions: For the last 3 decades bacillus Calmette-Guerin therapy has remained the most effective local therapy for superficial bladder cancer, an outstanding example of successful translational medicine in urology.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Portrait

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / history*
  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / therapeutic use
  • BCG Vaccine / history*
  • BCG Vaccine / therapeutic use
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / history*
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / history*


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • BCG Vaccine