[Skip to Navigation]
November 17, 2020

Bladder Cancer: A Review

Author Affiliations
  • 1Institute of Urologic Oncology (IUO), Department of Urology, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles
JAMA. 2020;324(19):1980-1991. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.17598
Audio Clinical Review (30:23)
0:00 / 0:00

Importance  Bladder cancer is a common malignancy in women and is the fourth most common malignancy in men. Bladder cancer ranges from unaggressive and usually noninvasive tumors that recur and commit patients to long-term invasive surveillance, to aggressive and invasive tumors with high disease-specific mortality.

Observations  Advanced age, male sex, and cigarette smoking contribute to the development of bladder cancer. Bladder tumors can present with gross or microscopic hematuria, which is evaluated with cystoscopy and upper tract imaging depending on the degree of hematuria and risk of malignancy. Non–muscle-invasive tumors are treated with endoscopic resection and adjuvant intravesical therapy, depending on the risk classification. Enhanced cystoscopy includes technology used to improve the detection of tumors and can reduce the risk of recurrence. Patients with high-risk non–muscle invasive tumors that do not respond to adjuvant therapy with the standard-of-care immunotherapy, bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG), constitute a challenging patient population to manage and many alternative therapies are being studied. For patients with muscle-invasive disease, more aggressive therapy with radical cystectomy and urinary diversion or trimodal therapy with maximal endoscopic resection, radiosensitizing chemotherapy, and radiation is warranted to curb the risk of metastasis and disease-specific mortality. Treatment of patients with advanced disease is undergoing rapid changes as immunotherapy with checkpoint inhibitors, targeted therapies, and antibody-drug conjugates have become options for certain patients with various stages of disease.

Conclusions and Relevance  Improved understanding of the molecular biology and genetics of bladder cancer has evolved the way localized and advanced disease is diagnosed and treated. While intravesical BCG has remained the mainstay of therapy for intermediate and high-risk non–muscle-invasive bladder cancer, the therapeutic options for muscle-invasive and advanced disease has expanded to include immunotherapy with checkpoint inhibition, targeted therapies, and antibody-drug conjugates.