An update on systemic therapy for penile cancer

Curr Opin Urol. 2020 Mar;30(2):229-233. doi: 10.1097/MOU.0000000000000733.


Purpose of review: Whereas substantial advances have been made in systemic tumour therapy in the past decade, the prognosis of advanced squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the penis remains disproportionally poor. In this review, we aimed to present an update on systemic therapy of penile SCC highlighting the most recent data and future perspectives.

Recent findings: Lymph node metastases play a key role in treating and assessing the prognosis of patients with penile SCC. Data show longer overall survival with the use of adjuvant chemotherapy in patients with pelvic lymph node metastases and recent analyses lead to the development of a nomogramm predicting overall survival in connection with the use of perioperative chemotherapy. There are two pathways in the pathogenesis of penile cancer, including human papilloma virus related and unrelated, leading to many possible novel therapeutic targets. Other targeted therapies have been evaluated, which show promising results with the use of tyrosine kinase inhibitors.

Summary: Chemotherapy has shown moderate activity in advanced stages of the disease, however, the ideal timing of chemotherapy in patients with lymph node metastases is not entirely clear. Potential targets for future therapies exist, and are already being tested in other malignancies. Owing to the rarity of this condition, a robust evidence is lacking and it is of great importance to pursue further research to unveil several aspects of this disease, particularly in patients with recurrence, lymph node metastases or metastatic disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / mortality
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • ErbB Receptors / biosynthesis
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy
  • Lymph Node Excision
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Male
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local
  • Penile Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Penile Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Penile Neoplasms / mortality
  • Prognosis


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • EGFR protein, human
  • ErbB Receptors