Purpose: Approximately 30% to 40% patients with a superficial bladder cancer treated with Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) or epirubicin do not respond; of the initial responders, 35% have a relapse within 5 years. We compare the therapeutic efficacy and toxicity of intravescical infusions of gemcitabine (GEM) with mitomycin (MMC) in patients with a recurrent superficial bladder cancer.
Patients and methods: Patients with a history of a previously treated, recurrent Ta-T1, G1-G3 bladder transitional cell carcinoma were enrolled in the study. The patients received a 6-week course of GEM infusions or 4-week course of MMC. In both arms, for the initial responders who remained free of recurrences, maintenance therapy consisted of 10 monthly treatments during the first year.
Results: A total of 120 patients were enrolled and randomly assigned to either the MMC or GEM treatment arm. At the end of the study, 109 patients (55 in MMC and 54 in GEM) were assessable. The median duration of follow-up was 36 months for either arm. In the GEM arm, 39 (72%) of 54 patients remained free of recurrence versus 33 (61%) of 55 in MMC arm. Among patients with recurrences, 10 in the MMC arm and six in the GEM arm also had a progressive disease by stage. The incidence of chemical cystitis in the MMC arm was statistically higher than in the GEM arm (P = .012).
Conclusion: This study demonstrates that GEM has better efficacy and lower toxicity than MMC; therefore, GEM appears as a logical candidate for intrabladder therapy in patients with refractory transitional cancer.