To reduce adverse effects and improve efficacy of intravesical BCG for bladder cancer, alternative treatment options were investigated in an orthotopic rat tumor model.
Superficial bladder cancer was established in syngeneic female rat bladders by instillation of AY-27 cells. Animals were randomly assigned to treatment groups including dose escalation of intravesical BCG with or without interferon-α (IFN-α) or interleukin-2 (IL-2); or graded doses of gemcitabine alone; or BCG plus gemcitabine. Treatments were given twice weekly for 3 weeks. Rats in control groups received saline instillations. Treatment response was monitored by animals’ well-being, survival days, tumor growth inhibition, and histological examination at necropsy.
Rats receiving monotherapy with intravesical BCG, gemcitabine, or IFN-α, attained significantly better survival and tumor reduction compared with control (P = 0.002; 0.001; 0.002, respectively, Log-rank Test). A dose-dependent treatment response was observed in animals with established bladder tumor receiving escalated BCG instillations. Only high-dose BCG significantly improved animal survival. Although high-dose BCG plus gemcitabine or IFN-α did not increase benefit over monotherapies, low-dose BCG plus IL-2 did show improved efficacy (P = 0.01).
Intravesical monotherapies with gemcitabine and IFN-α were as effective as BCG for treatment of early non-muscle-invasive urothelial bladder cancer in this immune competent rat model. Combining these agents with high-dose BCG did not further increase efficacy. However, combining low-dose BCG with IL-2 enhanced BCG effectiveness.