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Non-invasive high-grade (HG) bladder cancer is a heterogeneous disease that is characterized insufficiently. First-line Bacillus Calmette-Guérin instillation fails in a substantial amount of cases and alternative bladder-preserving treatments are limited, underlining the need to promote a further molecular understanding of non-invasive HG lesions. Here, we characterized pure HG papillary urothelial bladder cancer (pure pTa HG), a potential subgroup of non-invasive HG bladder carcinomas, with regard to molecular subtype affiliation and potential for targeted therapy. An immunohistochemistry panel comprising luminal (KRT20, ERBB2, ESR2, GATA3) and basal (KRT5/6, KRT14) markers as well as p53 and FGFR3 was used to analyze molecular subtype affiliations of 78 pure pTa HG/papillary pT1(a) HG samples. In 66 of these, ERBB2 fluorescence in situ hybridization was performed. Additionally, targeted sequencing (31 genes) of 19 pTa HG cases was conducted, focusing on known therapeutic targets or those described to predict response to targeted therapies noted in registered clinical trials or that are already approved. We found that pure pTa HG/papillary pT1(a) HG lesions were characterized by a luminal-like phenotype associated with frequent (58% of samples) moderate to high ERBB2 protein expression, rare FGFR3 alterations on genomic and protein levels, and a high frequency (89% of samples) of chromatin-modifying gene alterations. Of note, 95% of pTa HG/papillary pT1 HG cases harbored at least one potential druggable genomic alteration. Our data should help guiding the selection of targeted therapies for investigation in future clinical trials and, additionally, may provide a basis for prospective mechanistic studies of pTa HG pathogenesis.


Tician Schnitzler, Nadina Ortiz-Brüchle, Ursula Schneider, Isabella Lurje, Karolina Guricova, Alexander Buchner, Gerald Bastian Schulz, Axel Heidenreich, Nadine Therese Gaisa, Ruth Knüchel, Stefan Garczyk. Pure high-grade papillary urothelial bladder cancer: a luminal-like subgroup with potential for targeted therapy. Cellular oncology (Dordrecht). 2020 Oct;43(5):807-819

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PMID: 32445084

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