Stage T1 bladder cancers invade the lamina propria of the bladder and, despite sharing many of the genetic features of muscle-invasive bladder cancers, are classified as non-muscle-invasive or ‘superficial’ tumours. Yet, patients with T1 bladder cancer have an overall mortality of 33% and a cancer-specific mortality of 14% at three years after diagnosis, suggesting that these patients have a high risk of progression and, accordingly, require meticulous surgery, endoscopic surveillance and clinical decision-making. We hypothesize that the variability in the outcomes of patients with T1 bladder cancer is a result of both tumour heterogeneity and pathological staging, as well as inconsistencies in risk stratification, endoscopic resection and schedules of delivery of BCG. Owing to limitations in clinical staging, patients with T1 bladder cancer are at risk of both undertreatment with persistent use of BCG despite recurrence, and overtreatment with early cystectomy. Understanding the molecular features of T1 bladder cancers and how they respond to BCG therapy could improve biomarkers for risk stratification to align therapy with biological risk.
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