The p53 tumor suppressor gene and nuclear protein: Basic science review and relevance in the management of bladder cancer

Norm D. Smith*, Jonathan N. Rubenstein, Scott E. Eggener, James M. Kozlowski

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

120 Scopus citations


Purpose: An extensive body of literature regarding p53 has accumulated during the last 2 decades. The cellular mechanisms of p53 are complex yet well-defined, whereas its clinical usefulness in the management of bladder cancer remains controversial. We outline the basic constitutive functions of p53 and summarize its current role in the management of transitional cell carcinoma of the bladder. Materials and Methods: We conducted a MEDLINE based literature review concerning the fundamental mechanisms of p53 and its role in the management of bladder cancer. Results: The p53 gene is a tumor suppressor gene that acts as "guardian of the genome." Many diverse cellular events, including DNA damage and hypoxia, activate the p53 gene. The p53 protein functions as a transcription factor, regulating downstream genes involved in cell cycle arrest, DNA repair and programmed cell death. Loss of p53 function confers genomic instability, impaired apoptosis and diminished cell cycle restraint. Therefore, p53 mutations select for certain critical features of malignancy. Alteration of p53 is the most common mutation in human cancer. Roughly half of all human malignancies, including many urological cancers, exhibit p53 mutations. In bladder cancer p53 mutations have been associated with higher tumor grade and advanced stage, as well as progression of superficial disease to muscle invasion. Moreover, p53 nuclear over expression appears to be an independent predictor of disease progression and decreased survival after cystectomy. Conclusions: The importance of p53 mutation in tumor cell biology is irrefutable. Wild-type p53 mediates imperative functions such as regulation of the cell cycle and programmed cell death. Deficiency of p53 function by mutation or inactivation abrogates normal cell cycle checkpoints and apoptosis, generating a favorable milieu for genomic instability and carcinogenesis. However, despite the manifest importance of p53 in human malignancy, its current role in the management of bladder cancer appears somewhat limited. A multitude of retrospective studies have associated p53 mutations with adverse outcomes in superficial and muscle invasive disease. Nonetheless, randomized prospective studies are needed to determine the potential clinical implications of p53 in bladder cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1219-1228
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Urology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2003


  • Bladder neoplasms
  • Carcinoma, transitional cell
  • Genes, p53
  • Genes, tumor suppressor
  • Protein p53

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urology

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