Go to content

Palliative chemotherapy for bladder cancer: treatment delivery and outcomes in the general population


Background — Palliative chemotherapy for advanced bladder cancer is recommended in clinical practice guidelines because of the results achieved in clinical trials. However, real-world treatment and outcomes have not been well described. We report the treatment delivery and survival associated with palliative chemotherapy in routine clinical practice.

Materials and Methods — The population-based Ontario Cancer Registry was linked to electronic records of treatment to identify all patients with bladder cancer treated with palliative chemotherapy in Ontario during 1994 to 2008. Treatment regimens were identified for those cases treated at regional cancer centers. Overall survival (OS) and cancer-specific survival (CSS) were determined from the start of palliative chemotherapy. A Cox proportional hazards model was used to identify the factors associated with OS and CSS.

Results — The palliative chemotherapy regimen was identified for 710 patients with bladder cancer in Ontario during 1994 to 2008. Gemcitabine-cisplatin (Gem-Cis) was delivered to 37% (261 of 710), gemcitabine-carboplatin (Gem-Carbo) to 14% (96 of 710), and MVAC (methotrexate, vinblastine, Adriamycin, and cisplatin) to 8% (56 of 710). Other regimens were delivered to 42% of cases. The proportion of cases treated with Gem-Cis increased during the study period: 3% in 1994 to 1999, 32% in 2000 to 2003, and 52% in 2004 to 2008 (P < .001). The median survival and 5-year OS by regimen was 10 months and 16% for Gem-Cis, 7 months and 6% for Gem-Carbo, and 10 months and 13% for MVAC, respectively. Multivariate analysis controlling for age and comorbidity demonstrated improved survival for Gem-Cis and MVAC compared with Gem-Carbo (hazard ratio, 1.53; 95% confidence interval, 1.19-1.98).

Conclusion — The median survival associated with palliative chemotherapy for bladder cancer in routine practice is slightly inferior to the outcomes reported in clinical trials. However, consistent with the clinical trial results, a proportion of patients treated with palliative chemotherapy will achieve long-term survival. Gem-Carbo is associated with inferior survival compared with Gem-Cis and MVAC in routine practice.



Robinson AG, Wei X, Vera-Badillo FE, Mackillop WJ, Booth CM. Clin Genitourin Cancer. 2017; 15(4):e535-41. Epub 2016 Dec 29.

Contributing ICES Scientists

Research Programs

Associated Sites