|Bladder Cancer Staging.|
Non-invasive cancers are stratified into stage Ta (70%) or confined to the lining of the bladder (i.e. urothelium), T1 (20%) invading the lamina propria (superficial layer of the bladder) or carcinoma in situ (CIS, 10%). CIS is a high-grade urothelial malignancy that is confined to the superficial-most layers of the bladder. Although CIS is considered a non-invasive malignancy, it should not be considered a benign or indolent cancer.
Here we review some of the data regarding CIS.
CLINICAL PRESENTATIONWhile many bladder cancers (13-34%) present with gross hematuria (visible blood in the urine);[3,4] CIS is notorious for presenting with irritative voiding symptoms. Upwards of 80% of patients with CIS will present with irritative voiding symptoms.
RISK OF PROGRESSIONIn many cancers, CIS is considered a "pre-malignant" lesion. This is NOT true for bladder cancer. In fact, CIS of the bladder should be thought of as a flat, high-grade cancer and a precursor to invasive disease. This is supported by a number of studies and findings:
- The subsequent risk of CIS to progress to muscle-invasive or metastatic urothelial cancer is 40% or greater, especially if concomitant papillary tumors are present.[7,8]
- Of patients who undergo cystectomy for CIS alone, upwards of 20% will be found to have invasive cancer at final pathology.
- Patients with T1 disease who undergo cystectomy have a 6% risk of upstaging at final pathology; however patients with T1 disease and concomitant CIS have a 55% risk of upstaging.
- In a number of surgical series, CIS is one of the most important prognostic characteristics after tumor grade.[11,12]
- 20% of patients with CIS alone will die at 10 years.
MANAGEMENT OF CARCINOMA IN SITUCIS can be difficult to manage as it cannot be resected in the same sense as a papillary tumor as CIS is often flat, difficult to visualize and multifocal. In addition, CIS can be very difficult to find. In patients with irritative symptoms and/or positive high-grade cytology, a number of strategies can be employed to evaluate the bladder for the presence of CIS including (1) random, cold-cup bladder biopsies or (2) fluorescence cystoscopy.
Once diagnosed, CIS is best treated with intravesical BCG (please see prior blog entries BCG For Bladder Cancer: Why it Works, How it Works and Success Rates for Intravesical BCG Treatments for Bladder Cancer). BCG is approved by the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) for the treatment of CIS and is the preferred initial intravesical treatment for CIS according to the AUA (American Urological Association) Guideline for the Management of Nonmuscle Invasive Bladder Cancer.
- The initial tumor-free response after induction BCG is as high as 84%.[14,15]
- Approximately 50% of patients experience a durable response for 4 years or longer.
- Approximately 30% of patients experience a response for 10 years.
However, patients who do not respond to BCG have an incredibly high rate of progression; 95% of patients who do not respond to an induction course of BCG will progress to worse disease.[17,18]
There are a number of other chemotherapies that can be used for the treatment of CIS including adriamycin, gemcitabine and thiotepa. In North America, BCG is used most frequently due to a higher response rate (68% complete response for CIS vs. 49% for other chemotherapies) in a number of studies.[19,20]
Many patients with CIS will be refractory to an initial course of intravesical treatment. If first-line treatment fails, especially if the first line was chemotherapy, a second course of BCG can be given as 30-50% of patients will respond to this second course.[21,22] More than two courses of any medication are not recommended as 80% of patients who fail two courses will fail a third, and can be a harbinger of rapidly progressive, dangerous disease.
Patients with CIS who fail BCG should strongly consider an "early" cystectomy. While removal of the bladder for non-invasive disease can be considered drastic:
- 50% of patients with non-muscle invasive disease will be found to have muscle-invasion at cystectomy
- 15% of muscle-invasive cancers will have micrometastatic disease 
- The long-term survival for patients with non-muscle invasive disease approaches 90%, which is significantly higher than patients with muscle-invasive cancers.[24,25]
- Carcinoma in situ (CIS) is a high-grade, flat cancer of the bladder with potentially aggressive behavior
- The first line treatment for CIS in intravesical BCG treatment
- Patients who do not respond to intravesical treatment should strongly consider cystectomy due to the high rates of progression to advanced disease.
For additional information regarding BCG treatments check out the following blog entries:
BCG For Bladder Cancer: Why it Works, How it Works
Success Rates for Intravesical BCG Treatments for Bladder Cancer
This blog was written by Phillip M. Pierorazio, MD, Assistant Professor of Urology and Oncology at the Brady Urological Institute at Johns Hopkins.
 American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2014. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2014.
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