Rationale for Randomized Clinical Trials Investigating the Potential of BCG Vaccination in Preventing COVID-19 Infection


Despite the implementation of mitigation measures, Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), is still spreading worldwide, and has caused more than 1 million deaths so far. Although recent reports indicate that three vaccine candidates are effective against SARS-CoV-2, more time is needed to generate enough doses for the general population. Meanwhile, frontline healthcare workers are at high risk of SARS-CoV-2 exposure. To avoid collapse of the medical care system, there is a need to develop novel approaches to limit SARS-CoV-2 spread. Through a process called trained immunity, the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine boosts the action of innate immune cells, resulting in a nonspecific reduction in the incidence of viral infections. Due to this immunomodulatory action, the BCG vaccine is currently used as a therapeutic in bladder cancer. Data collected from epidemiological and observational studies indicate that BCG vaccination might provide protection against COVID-19. While these observations do not provide evidence of causality and are limited by cofounding and intrinsic biases, it is crucial to explore the hypothesis that BCG vaccination may provide a nonspecific innate immune boost and therefore protect against COVID-19 in randomized controlled clinical trials, particularly for people at higher risk of developing COVID-19, such as frontline healthcare workers.


BACKGROUND: Bladder cancer is still a disease of significant morbidity and mortality. In bladder cancer, RB1 is one of the most common mutant genes.

METHODS: In this study, we explored the Genomics of Drug Sensitivity in Cancer (GDSC) database for drug sensitivity. The latest TCGA data were downloaded for analysis. To deal with functional enrichment analysis, GSEA, KEGG and GO were used. Prognostic analyses have been carried out using the GEPIA online tool.

RESULTS: Results from the GDSC database showed that bladder cancer cells with RB1 mutation are more resistant to Dactolisib, MK-2206 and GNE-317. RB1 mutation was found in 25%bladder cancer patients. Patients with RB1 mutation often had lower RB1 mRNA expression level and higher histologic grade. In addition, we identified 999 differentially expressed genes in both groups. Functional enrichment analysis suggested that DEGs were primarily enriched in multiple metabolic progressions, cell proliferation and cancer related pathways. There were strong correlations between WT1, GPR37, CHRM2 and EZH2 expression levels and the prognosis.

CONCLUSIONS: In all, the significance of RB1 mutation in disease progression and drug selection in bladder cancer was suggested by our results, and multiple genes and pathways related to such a program were identified.

Spectrum of FGFR2/3 Alterations in Cell-Free DNA of Patients with Advanced Urothelial Carcinoma


Detecting genomic alterations (GAs) in advanced urothelial carcinoma (aUC) can expand treatment options by identifying candidates for targeted therapies. Erdafitinib is FDA-approved for patients with platinum-refractory aUC with activating mutation or fusion in FGFR2/3. We explored the prevalence and spectrum of FGFR2/3 GAs identified with plasma cfDNA NGS testing (Guardant360) in 997 patients with aUC. FGFR2/3 GAs were detected in 201 patients (20%) with characterized activating GAs in 141 (14%). Our results indicate the Guardant360-based FGFR2/3 GA detection rate is similar to those described from previous studies employing tumor tissue testing, suggesting that plasma-based cfDNA NGS may non-invasively identify candidates for anti-FGFR targeted therapies.

“Picture this”- Patients’ Drawings of Non-Muscle Invasive Bladder Cancer: A Novel Method to Help Understand How Patients Perceive Their Condition


BACKGROUND: There is a paucity of data regarding patient experiences of living with non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC).

OBJECTIVES: To investigate patients’ beliefs about NMIBC utilising both a well-established verbal/linguistic method, the Brief Illness Perception Questionnaire (B-IPQ) in addition to a novel visual/perceptual method, that is, asking patients to draw their bladder as it is now and as they perceive it will be in the future.

METHODS: Cross-sectional study of patients with NMIBC. Patients completed: (i) the B-IPQ, and (ii) 2 drawings of their bladder: as they perceived it currently and as they perceived it would look in 5 years’ time.

RESULTS: A total of 118 patients completed the B-IPQ, of which 96 produced 2 bladder drawings. Forty-seven per cent of patients depicted no change in their bladder across time, 35% depicted improvements, while 18% drew their NMIBC as deteriorating between the two time points. Patients who drew their NMIBC worsening over time reported significantly stronger beliefs in the severity of current consequences from their NMIBC (F(2,94) = 9.07, p < 0.001, m = 5.68, 95% CI 4.38–6.88) and greater current concerns about their NMIBC (F(2,94) = 6.17, p < 0.01, m = 7.06, 95% CI 5.47–8.66). This was unrelated to cancer grade, cancer stage, treatment or demographic variables.

Thromboembolism in Muscle-Invasive Bladder Cancer. A Population-based Nationwide Study


BACKGROUND: Routine VTE prophylaxis within 30 days of radical cystectomy (RC) for urinary bladder cancer (UBC) is used to protect from venous thromboembolism (VTE). However, randomized studies and nationwide population-based studies are lacking.

OBJECTIVE: To study VTE and risk factors for VTE in muscle-invasive UBC in a nationwide population-based series, with a focus on the association with RC with and without chemotherapy.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: We studied all patients with clinical stage T2-T4 UBC diagnosed 1997 to 2014 in the Bladder Cancer Data Base Sweden (BladderBaSe). Previous VTE events and risk factors for VTE were registered from 1987. Cox regression analyses and Kaplan-Meier curves were performed to study risk factors for VTE and cumulative incidence of VTE.

RESULTS: In 9720 patients (71%males) with a median age of 74 years 546 (5.6%) had VTE after diagnosis. In Cox analyses controlling for patient’s and tumour characteristics, and risk factors for VTE, VTE after diagnosis and first treatment date were associated with chemotherapy with or without RC. Cumulative incidence of VTE increased during 24 months after diagnosis and first treatment date. VTE were less common in patients with previous cardiovascular disease.

Benefit of Adjuvant Chemotherapy After Radical Cystectomy for Treatment of Urothelial Carcinoma of the Bladder in the Elderly –An International Multicenter Study


BACKGROUND: Radical cystectomy (RC) is the standard treatment for muscle invasive bladder cancer, but approximately half of all patients will ultimately succumb to disease progression despite apparent cure with extirpative surgery. Elderly patients are at especially high risk of advanced disease and may benefit from perioperative systemic therapy.

OBJECTIVE: To assess the real-world benefit of adjuvant chemotherapy (AC) in patients ≥75 years old.

METHODS: We retrospectively reviewed patients who underwent RC for non-metastatic urothelial carcinoma of the bladder (UCB) from 12 participating international medical institutions. Kaplan-Meier survival curves and Cox regression models were used to assess the association between age groups, administration of AC and oncological outcome parameters such as recurrence-free survival (RFS), cancer-specific survival (CSS) and overall survival (OS).

Single Instillation of Hypertonic Saline Immediately Following Transurethral Resection of Bladder Tumor for Recurrence Prevention –A Phase I Study


BACKGROUND: Urologic guidelines recommend perioperative instillation of chemotherapy after transurethral resection of bladder tumor (TURBT) to decrease tumor recurrence, yet implementation of this recommendation is partial due to associated morbidity. Hypertonic saline destroys cells by osmotic dehydration and might present a safer alternative.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the safety of 3% hypertonic saline (Hypersal) intravesical instillation following TURBT in rats and in humans.

Low Risk of Severe Complications After a Single, Post-Operative Instillation of Intravesical Chemotherapy in Patients with TaG1G2 Urothelial Bladder Carcinoma


BACKGROUND: EAU guidelines recommend a single instillation (SI) of intravesical chemotherapy (e.g. Mitomycin C) within 24 hours after transurethral resection of a bladder tumour (TURBT) in patients with low- to intermediate risk non-muscle invasive bladder cancer without (suspected) bladder perforation or bleeding requiring bladder irrigation. However, remarkable variation exists in the use of SI. The risk of severe complications is likely to contribute to this variation, but evidence is limited.

OBJECTIVE: To investigate the absolute severe complication and mortality risk after SI in low- and intermediate risk bladder cancer.

METHODS: In this observational, historic cohort study, data on 25,567 patients diagnosed with TaG1G2 urothelial bladder carcinoma (UBC) between 2009 and 2018 who underwent TURBT were collected from the Netherlands Cancer Registry. Data were supplemented with information on cause of death and severe complications after cancer treatment by re-examining the electronic health records and the 14-day complication risk and the 30-day mortality risk were evaluated.

Incidental Prostate Cancer in Radical Cystoprostatectomy Specimens is Associated with Worse Overall Survival


BACKGROUND: The impact of incidental prostate cancer (IPC) on oncological outcomes after radical cystoprostatectomy (RCP) specimens from patients with bladder cancer (BC) remains controversial. This relationship has not been well elucidated in Asian countries, where the incidence of prostate cancer has recently shown dramatic increases.

OBJECTIVES: This study retrospectively compared pathological features and oncological outcomes between BC patients with and without IPC in the RCP specimens.

Systematic Review of the Role of BCG in the Treatment of Urothelial Carcinoma of the Prostatic Urethra


BACKGROUND: In patients with non-invasive urothelial carcinoma of the prostatic urethra (PUC), treatment with Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) could be beneficial.

OBJECTIVE: To assess the response rates to BCG in the different tumor stages, to describe the clinical impact of transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) before BCG treatment, and to review the side effects of BCG treatment for PUC.

METHODS: A systematic search was conducted using the PubMed database to identify original studies between 1977 and 2019 reporting on PUC and BCG.

RESULTS: Of a total of 865 studies, ten were considered for evidence synthesis. An indication for BCG treatment was found in non-stromal invasive stages (Tis pu, Tis pd) and in stromal infiltrating cases (T1) of primary and secondary PUC when transitional cell carcinoma was the histology of origin. Studies including patients treated with TURP before BCG showed a better local response in the prostatic urethra with a higher disease free survival (DFS) (80–100% vs. 63–89%) and progression free survival (PFS) (90–100% vs. 75–94%) than patients in studies in which no TURP was performed. However, this difference in recurrence and progression in the prostate neither affected the total PFS (57–75% vs. 58–93%), nor the disease specific survival (70–100% vs. 66–100%).

A Systematic Review of Outcome Reporting, Definition and Measurement Heterogeneity in Non-Muscle Invasive Bladder Cancer Effectiveness Trials of Adjuvant, Prophylactic Treatment After Transurethral Resection


BACKGROUND: Heterogenous outcome reporting in non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC) effectiveness trials of adjuvant treatment after transurethral resection (TURBT) has been noted in systematic reviews (SRs). This hinders comparing results across trials, combining them in meta-analyses, and evidence-based decision-making for patients and clinicians.

OBJECTIVE: We aimed to systematically review the extent of reporting and definition heterogeneity.

METHODS: We included randomized controlled trials (RCTs) identified from SRs comparing adjuvant treatments after TURBT or TURBT alone in patients with NMIBC (with or without carcinoma in situ) published between 2000–2020. Abstracts and full texts were screened independently by two reviewers. Data were extracted by one reviewer and checked by another.

RESULTS: We screened 807 abstracts; from 15 SRs, 57 RCTs were included. Verbatim outcome names were coded to standard outcome names and organised using the Williamson and Clarke taxonomy. Recurrence (98%), progression (74%), treatment response (in CIS studies) (40%), and adverse events (77%) were frequently reported across studies. However, overall (33%) and cancer-specific (33%) survival, treatment completion (17%) and treatment change (37%) were less often reported. Quality of Life (3%) and economic outcomes (2%) were rarely reported. Heterogeneity was evident throughout, particularly in the definitions of progression and recurrence, and how CIS patients were handled in the analysis of studies with predominantly papillary patients, highlighting further issues with the definition of recurrence and progression vs treatment response for CIS patients. Data reporting was also inconsistent, with some trials reporting event rates at various time-points and others reporting time-to-event with or without Hazard Ratios. Adverse events were inconsistently reported. QoL data was absent in most trials.

CONCLUSIONS: Heterogenous outcome reporting is evident in NMIBC effectiveness trials. This has profound implications for meta-analyses, SRs and evidence-based treatment decisions. A core outcome set is required to reduce heterogeneity.

Revisiting an Old Conundrum: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Intravesical Therapy for Treatment of Urothelial Carcinoma of the Prostate


BACKGROUND: The optimal management of non-invasive (mucosal and/or ductal) urothelial carcinoma of the prostate remains elusive and there is a paucity of data to guide treatment.

OBJECTIVE: Our objective was to systematically review and synthesize treatment responses to conservative management of non-invasive prostatic urothelial carcinoma using intravesical therapy.

METHODS: A systematic literature search using MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, SCOPUS, and Web of Science databases from inception to November 2019 was performed. Risk of bias assessment was performed using the Newcastle-Ottawa scale for non-randomised studies. Pooled estimates of complete response in the bladder and prostate and prostate only were performed using a random effects model. Pre-specified subgroup analyses were generated to assess differences in complete responses for: BCG therapy vs other agents, ductal vs mucosal involvement, CIS vs papillary tumors and TURP vs no TURP.

RESULTS: Nine studies including 175 patients were identified for inclusion in the systematic review and meta-analysis. All were retrospective case series and most evaluated response to BCG therapy. The pooled global complete response rate for intravesical therapy was 60%(95%CI: 0.48, 0.72), and for prostate 88%(95%CI: 0.81, 0.96). Pre-specified analyses did not demonstrate statistically significant differences between subgroups of interest.

CONCLUSIONS: Management of non-invasive prostatic urothelial carcinoma using intravesical therapy yields satisfactory results. Caution should be taken in treating patients with papillary tumors and ductal involvement, as data for these populations is limited. TURP may not improve efficacy, but is required for staging. Current recommendations are based on low quality evidence, and further research is warranted.

Clinical Trials Corner Issue 7(2)

In this issue, we highlight 2 important phase III trials that were presented at ASCO GU in 2021, one with the antibody drug conjugate Enfortumab Vedotin, in advanced disease and one in the adjuvant setting. We also highlight an adjuvant trial that has been completed and another one that is actively recruiting patients. The trials answer important clinical questions about adjuvant immunotherapy after cystectomy in patients with muscle invasive urothelial cancer (MIUC).