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Immune reactions in patients with superficial bladder cancer after intradermal and intravesical treatment with bacillus Calmette-Guérin

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The immune reactivity of patients with strongly recurrent superficial bladder cancer was followed after combined intravesical and intradermal bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) immunotherapy. All patients in this study were previously treated without success with intravesical chemotherapy. The BCG treatment regimen consisted of weekly administrations with BCG (RIVM) for six consecutive weeks, both intravesically and intradermally. In this study, sera and peripheral blood leukocytes (PBL) of patients were tested serially. Besides BCG-antigen-specific reactions, e.g. skin reactivity to purified protein derivatives of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (PPD), antibody formation and antigen stimulation of PBL in vitro, non-antigen-specific immune reactivities were also measured, e.g. mitogen response and spontaneous cytotoxic activity of PBL. In addition the antibody response to bladder carcinoma antigens and the cytotoxic activity of PBL for the bladder carcinoma cell line T24 and the natural-killer-sensitive K562 cell line were investigated. The results obtained from the various assays were evaluated for their prognostic value in relation to the length of the tumor-free interval after the BCG treatment. Because sera and PBL were only obtained during the first 6 months after the BCG treatment, the immune reactivity was compared to the clinical results at that same time. At 6 months after therapy 12 out of 40 BCG-treated patients were tumor-free whereas 28 out of 40 showed a recurrence. Skin reactivity to tuberculin PPD was measured in 40 patients during a period of 3–6 months after therapy. Of patients who showed a recurrence of the tumor within 6 months, 48% of them showed a transient response or developed no response at all to PPD. In the group of patients with a longer tumor-free period (n=10), only one patient lost the response to tuberculin PPD. Although PBL of a limited number of patients were tested, it was observed that the cytotoxicity to the bladder carcinoma cell line T24, and the natural-killer-sensitive K562 cell line increased in a number of the patients (7 out of 14, and 9 out of 14 respectively). Reactivity of PBL to mitogens and subset distribution (ratio T-helper: T-suppressor/cytotoxic) were not influenced by the BCG treatment. Antibody response to mycobacterial antigen was detected in 9 out of 23 patients investigated. Of these 9 patients, 8 belonged to the group with a recurrence of the tumor within 6 months (n=17). There was no correlation between the skin reactivity and the antibody response to tuberculin PPD. Furthermore, none of the 25 patients showed an antibody response to bladder carcinoma antigens. Sera of bladder carcinoma patients (n=19) reduced the mitogen-induced proliferation of lymphocytes, compared to sera of healthy controls (n=13), indicating the presence of circulating suppressor factor(s). Our results indicate that the absence of a Mantoux conversion or the presence of transient reaction to tuberculin PPD were highly related (91%) to a relapse of the disease. On the other hand, the cytotoxic activity of PBL to T24 and K562 cell lines, or their reactivity to tuberculin PPD or mitogens, gives no predictive information about the clinical results (tumor-free interval) of the BCG therapy.

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Correspondence to P. A. Steerenberg.

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Abbreviations used: BCG, bacillus Calmette-Guérin; NK, natural killer; PBL, peripheral blood leukocytes; PPD, purified protein derivative of Mycobacterium tuberculosis; ELISA, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay

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van der Meijden, A.P.M., Steerenberg, P.A., van Hoogstraaten, I.M.W. et al. Immune reactions in patients with superficial bladder cancer after intradermal and intravesical treatment with bacillus Calmette-Guérin. Cancer Immunol Immunother 28, 287–295 (1989). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00205239

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  • Skin Reactivity
  • Peripheral Blood Leukocyte
  • Bladder Carcinoma
  • Purify Protein Derivative
  • Superficial Bladder Cancer