Small cell carcinoma of the urinary bladder: a 15-year retrospective review of treatment and survival in the Anglian Cancer Network

BJU Int. 2009 Mar;103(6):747-52. doi: 10.1111/j.1464-410X.2008.08241.x. Epub 2008 Dec 5.


Objective: To report the clinical experience and management of patients with small cell carcinoma (SCC) of the bladder, treated in the Anglia Cancer network from 1992 to 2007, and to review published studies, as SCC is a rare condition, accounting for <1% of all bladder tumours, and there is no established treatment strategy for managing these patients.

Patients and methods: We analysed retrospectively data from all patients diagnosed with SCC of the urinary bladder between 1992 and 2007, with an emphasis on stage, treatment and overall survival.

Results: Twenty patients were identified with primary bladder SCC (male: female ratio 3:1; mean age 68 years; mean follow-up 15.8 months). Nine patients (45%) had extensive-stage disease at diagnosis. Four patients received best supportive care, three had a radical cystectomy, one radical radiotherapy and six sequential chemo-radiotherapy. In all, 13 patients were treated with chemotherapy, with six receiving cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin and vincristine, three receiving carboplatin and etoposide, and the remainder receiving alternative platinum-based regimens. For 12 patients with assessable disease, six had a complete response, three a partial response and three had progressive disease after chemotherapy. No patient received prophylactic cranial irradiation (PCI). At the time of analysis, 14 (70%) patients had died, with one (5%) developing brain metastasis. The median survival was 33 months for patients receiving chemotherapy, vs 3 months with no chemotherapy.

Conclusions: SCC of the bladder tends to occur in an older population, more commonly in men. It is an aggressive tumour with a propensity for early metastasis. The response rate to chemotherapy is high but the overall prognosis is poor. Brain secondaries are less common than for SCC of the lung and currently the role of PCI is unclear. As there is no standard of care for these patients, they are treated according to local protocols. Further efforts should be made to develop more effective treatments and the role of PCI should be assessed in the setting of a clinical trial, in conjunction with other extrapulmonary SCCs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / mortality
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / secondary
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / therapy*
  • England
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival Analysis
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / mortality
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / pathology
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / therapy*