Adding Chemo Improves Outcomes from Bladder Cancer Radiation

British researchers have found that combining radiation with 2 chemotherapy drugs helped bladder cancer patients live longer than those who had radiation alone.

In the study, 360 people with muscle-invasive bladder cancer were randomly assigned to radiation alone, or radiation with the chemo drugs fluorouracil and mitomycin. Most of the patients had their bladder tumors removed first. In the chemo-radiation group, 48% of the patients lived at least 5 years, as compared with 35% in the group treated with radiation alone. In addition, 67% of those in the radiation-chemo group had no evidence of cancer in their bladder after 2 years, compared to 54% in the radiation-only group.

Most people diagnosed with bladder cancer are treated with surgery to remove the bladder, either alone or in combination with other treatments. However, patients are often elderly – the average age at diagnosis is 73 – and often have other serious illnesses that make that surgery risky. Improving the effectiveness of non-surgical treatments can make a significant difference in the lives of these patients.

The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

About bladder cancer

An estimated 73,510 new cases of bladder cancer are expected to be diagnosed in 2012. Smokers are more than twice as likely to get bladder cancer as nonsmokers. Smoking causes about half of the deaths from bladder cancer among men and almost a third of bladder cancer deaths in women. Other risk factors include exposure to certain industrial chemicals.

Symptoms of bladder cancer include blood in the urine, having to go (urinate) more than usual, feeling pain or burning while urinating, and feeling like you need to go urgently, even when your bladder is not full. Usually, these symptoms are caused by something less serious, like an infection. But if you experience any of them, you should see a doctor right away.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Radiotherapy with or without Chemotherapy in Muscle-Invasive Bladder Cancer. Published in the April 19, 2012 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. First author: Nicholas D. James, MB, BS, PhD, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, England.

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