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OBJECTIVES: To review the published literature on the diagnosis and management of small cell carcinoma of the bladder (SCCB). METHODS: Papers were identified by searches of PubMed using the terms "small cell", "bladder" and "carcinoma". Additional papers were identified from review of references of relevant articles. RESULTS: SCCB comprises less than 1% of bladder malignancies. It is an aggressive tumour that commonly presents at an advanced stage, in an elderly population. Consequently, patients are often not fit for anti-neoplastic therapy. In fit patients, the bedrock of treatment in the majority of cases is platinum-based systemic chemotherapy, which was the only factor predictive of improved outcome on multivariate analysis in one large review. The use of neoadjuvant chemotherapy has been associated with favourable results and may therefore be the preferred approach when scheduling treatment. Options for local management comprise surgery or radiotherapy (sequentially or concurrently with chemotherapy), both of which are potentially curative in selected cases. However, the subsequent frequent development of urothelial malignancies with bladder-sparing approaches should be considered when planning treatment, particularly in younger patients. Prognosis of SCCB overall is poor, the median survival of all cases varies from 4 to 23 months, and overall survival at 5 years from 10% to 40% of patients. CONCLUSIONS: SCCB is a rare and aggressive tumour with a poor prognosis. Future efforts should be directed at its early detection and the development of more effective systemic therapies.

Original publication




Journal article


Cancer Treat Rev

Publication Date





588 - 593


Antineoplastic Agents, Carcinoma, Small Cell, Combined Modality Therapy, Humans, Neoadjuvant Therapy, Neoplasm Staging, Radiotherapy, Adjuvant, Survival Analysis, Urinary Bladder Neoplasms