Downstaging and survival after Neoadjuvant chemotherapy for bladder cancer in Norway; a population-based study

BMC Cancer. 2022 Dec 12;22(1):1301. doi: 10.1186/s12885-022-10394-w.


Background: Neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NAC) before radical cystectomy is associated with pathological downstaging (DS) and improved overall survival (OS) in patients with muscle-invasive bladder cancer (MIBC). Population-based studies have not unequivocally shown improved survival. The aim of this population-based study was to evaluate the effect of NAC on DS and OS in Norwegian patients with MIBC.

Methods: Patients in the Cancer Registry of Norway undergoing radical cystectomy (2008-2015) with or without NAC diagnosed with MIBC between 2008 and 2012 were included. Follow-up data were available until 31 December 2019. Logistic regression estimated the odds of DS with NAC, and a Cox model investigated the effect of DS on OS. Cox models, a mediator analysis and an instrumental variable approach were used to investigate the effect of NAC on OS.

Results: A total of 575 patients were included. NAC was administered to 82 (14%) patients. Compared to cystectomy only, NAC increased the proportion (43% vs. 22%) and the odds of DS (OR 2.51, CI 1.37-4.60, p = 0.003). Independent of NAC, the proportion of pN0 was higher in patients with DS (89% vs. 60%) and DS yielded a 78% mortality risk reduction (HR 0.22, CI 0.15-0.34, p = 1.9∙10-12), compared to patients without DS. We did not find an association between NAC and OS, neither by Cox regression (HR 1.16, CI 0.80-1.68, p = 0.417) nor by an instrumental variable approach (HR = 0.56, CI = 0.07-4.57, p = 0.586). The mediation analysis (p = 0.026) confirmed an indirect effect of NAC on OS through DS. Limitations include limited information of the primary tumour, details of NAC treatment and treatment indications.

Conclusions: NAC increases the probability of DS and is indirectly associated to OS. DS is related to the absence of regional lymph node metastases and is associated with an OS benefit. Improved staging and biomarkers are needed to identify patients most likely to achieve DS and to benefit from NAC.

Keywords: Bladder cancer; Neoadjuvant chemotherapy; Overall survival; Pathological downstaging; Population-based.

MeSH terms

  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Cystectomy
  • Humans
  • Neoadjuvant Therapy*
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Urinary Bladder / pathology
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms* / pathology