Bacillus Calmette-Guerin intravesical immunotherapy is becoming the adjunctive treatment of choice for patients with recurrent superficial transitional cell carcinoma of the bladder. The recurrence rates following bacillus Calmette-Guerin therapy reported to date vary widely but generally they fall within the 20 per cent range. The results of retreatment of bacillus Calmette-Guerin failures with a second 6-week course of intravesical bacillus Calmette-Guerin have not been reported previously. We report the response rates of 61 patients treated with a single 6-week course of intravesical bacillus Calmette-Guerin, and 25 patients who failed to respond to the initial course and were treated with a second 6-week course. Intravesical bacillus Calmette-Guerin therapy (120 mg. Pasteur strain) was administered weekly for 6 weeks. No intradermal injections of bacillus Calmette-Guerin were given. Patients were followed with urinary cytology and bladder biopsy every 3 months. Patients with tumor at followup were treated with a second 6-week course of intravesical bacillus Calmette-Guerin. Of 19 patients with carcinoma in situ 8 (42 per cent) responded to the initial course of bacillus Calmette-Guerin, while 5 of 9 (56 per cent) became free of tumor after the second course, for a cumulative response rate of 68 per cent (mean followup 13.5 ± 2.1 months). Of 13 patients treated for residual papillary tumors 6 (46 per cent) responded to the initial course of bacillus Calmette-Guerin and 3 of 7 (43 per cent) to the subsequent course, providing a cumulative response rate of 69 per cent (mean followup 14.8 ± 2.8 months). Of 29 patients treated for prophylaxis against tumor recurrence 20 (69 per cent) remained free of tumor after a single 6-week course, while 6 of 9 (67 per cent) were free of tumor after the second treatment course. A 90 per cent cumulative response rate was observed in the prophylaxis category (mean followup 12.8 ± 1.3 months). Over-all 48 of 61 patients (79 per cent) were observed to respond when all 3 categories and both treatment courses were considered. Individually, the response rate for each 6-week treatment course was 56 per cent (34 of 61 and 14 of 25, respectively). Toxicity for each treatment course was well tolerated and consisted of dysuria/frequency, hematuria and a flu-like syndrome. Toxicity was progressively more severe with prolonged treatment. Retreatment with a second course of bacillus Calmette-Guerin is warranted for patients failing the initial treatment course. The data further suggest that a single 6-week intravesical bacillus Calmette-Guerin course is not optimally effective (56 per cent response rate).
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