Biomarkers in Bladder Cancer Surveillance

Sukumar S. Sugeeta, Anand Sharma, Kenrick Ng, Arvind Nayak, Nikhil Vasdev

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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Aim: This is a narrative review with an aim to summarise and describe urinary biomarkers in the surveillance of non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC). It provides a summary of FDA-approved protein biomarkers along with emerging ones which utilise genetic, epigenetic and exosomal markers. We discuss the current limitations of the available assays.

Background: Current guidelines advice a combination of cystoscopy, imaging, and urine cytology in diagnosis and surveillance. Although cytology has a high specificity, it is limited by low sensitivity particularly in low grade tumours. There are six FDA-approved urinary assays for diagnosis and surveillance of bladder cancer. They have shown to improve sensitivity and specificity to be used alongside cytology and cystoscopy but have a lower specificity in comparison to cytology and false positives often occur in benign conditions. Recent developments in laboratory techniques has allowed for use of markers which are RNA-, DNA-based as well as extracellular vesicles in the past decade.

Methods: Using the PubMed/Medline search engines as well as Google Scholar, we performed an online search using the terms “bladder cancer,” “non-muscle invasive bladder cancer,” and “urine biomarkers” with filter for articles in English published up to May 2021. Systematic reviews and original data of clinical trials or observational studies which contributed to the development of the biomarkers were collated. Results: Biomarkers identified were divided into FDA-approved molecular biomarkers, protein biomarkers and gene-related biomarker with a table summarising the findings of each marker with the most relevant studies. The studies conducted were mainly retrospective. Due to the early stages of development, only a few prospective studies have been done for more recently developed biomarkers and limited meta-analyses are available. Therefore a detailed evaluation of these markers are still required to decide on their clinical use.

Conclusion: Advancements of analytical methods in BC has driven the research towards non-invasive liquid-based biomarkers in adjunct to urine cytology. Further large prospective studies are required to determine its feasibility in a clinical setting as they are not effective when used in isolation as they have their limitation. With the ongoing pandemic, other than reduction in costs and increased accuracy, the need for biomarkers to cope with delay in cystoscopies in diagnosis and surveillance is crucial. Thus clinical trials with direct comparison is required to improve patient care.
Original languageEnglish
Article number735868
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Surgery
Publication statusPublished - 28 Sept 2021


  • Surgery
  • biomarker
  • bladder cancer
  • surveillance
  • non-muscular invasive bladder cancer
  • cancer screening


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