Update: Bladder cancer intracranial metastases

Bladder cancer intracranial metastases


Bladder cancer gives metastasis to the brain in less than 1%.

Transitional cell carcinoma (TCC), the most common type of urinary bladder cancer, is a rare cause of brain metastasis with an ominous prognosis.


Case series


Taylor et al. from the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, reported a series of patients with brain metastases from bladder cancer treated with stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS). The aim was to identify patients with brain metastases from bladder primaries treated with SRS with or without surgical resection and report the clinical outcomes.

Patients meeting eligibility criteria at the institution between 2000 and 2017 were included. The clinical variables of interest, including overall survival (OS), local recurrence, V12, distant brain failure (DBF), and initial brain metastases velocity, were calculated. Cox proportional hazards analysis was performed to identify predictors of time-to-event outcomes.

A total of 14 patients were included. The median OS from the time of treatment was 2.1 months. Factors predictive of OS include intracranial resection (HR 0.21, p = 0.03). The cumulative incidence of local failure was 21% at 6 months and 30% at 12 months. The cumulative incidence of DBF at 6 and 12 months was 23 and 31%, respectively.

The prognosis in this patient population remains guarded. Factors associated with improved survival include intracranial resection. Future, prospective work is needed to further define optimal management 1).


Between January 1982 and November 1999, 16 patients with brain metastases from bladder carcinoma were treated at our institution. We reviewed patient and tumor characteristics at the time of the primary diagnosis and the brain metastasis diagnosis. We analyzed treatment results in regard to survival and local metastasis control.

Brain metastases from bladder carcinoma were commonly accompanied by uncontrolled systemic metastases. Multiple brain lesions developed in 14 of the 16 patients. Of the 16 patients 14 received radiation therapy with or without surgery, 1 was treated surgically and 1 did not receive any treatment. The 11 patients treated with whole brain radiation therapy had a median survival of only 2 months (range 0.5 to 11). A patient who received stereotactic radiosurgery survived 12 months after the brain metastasis diagnosis and 2 treated with radiation therapy after surgery survived 12.75 and 2.75 months, respectively (median 7.75). The patient treated with surgery alone survived 1.25 months after the brain metastasis diagnosis and 1 who received no treatment survived 1.75 months. Patients with multiple brain metastases had shorter survival than those with a single metastasis.

Overall survival after brain metastasis development in patients with bladder carcinoma was poor. Although the number of patients in this study was small, results indicate that radiation therapy alone is inadequate treatment. Therefore, when possible, we advocate more effective treatment by combining radiation therapy with other treatment modalities, as recommended in ongoing clinical trials 2).


The records of 28 patients with transitional cell cancer who had brain metastases were retrospectively reviewed. Data from 19 patients were considered suitable for analysis and were included in this study. One patient was treated with surgery alone, 10 with radiation alone and 7 with radiation and surgery, while 1 received no treatment. Mean and median survival times, respectively, were 57 and 42 months from the initial diagnosis, and 11 and 4 months from diagnosis of central nervous system metastases. Patients treated with surgery and radiation demonstrated a mean survival time of 19 months compared to 6 months for patients treated with radiation alone (p = 0.03). There were 2 long-term survivors in the combined modality group at 50 and at 12 months. Enthusiasm for combined modality treatment should be tempered by the fact that selection bias favored the combined modality group; 13 patients with single lesions demonstrated a mean survival of 14 months compared to 3 months for 6 patients with multiple lesions (p = 0.009) and only patients with solitary lesions underwent surgical resection. Brain metastases have an ominous prognosis in patients with bladder cancer primaries. Considering the sum of the retrospective and prospective reports, we recommend that patients with solitary brain lesions and good performance status be aggressively managed with surgical resection and postoperative radiation therapy 3).


Clinico-pathological study of six patients with cerebral metastasis from vesical carcinoma with no prior administration of systemic chemotherapy. In two cases the symptoms of intracranial mass were the initial reason for infiltrant vesical carcinoma examination. Despite the rarity of such occurrence, the possibility of vesical tumours showing in such a way must be taken into account. The singularity of cerebral metastatic seeding throughout the natural history of a vesical neoplasia is analyzed. Also, a review is made of the factors hypothetically responsible for the increase of cerebral metastasis establishment following current chemotherapy 4).

Case reports

A 68-year-old female presented with right-sided paresis and focal motor seizures of her right upper and lower extremities 14 years after being diagnosed and treated for primary TCC of the urinary bladder with gemcitabine-based chemotherapy. MRI imaging revealed a 3.1 × 3.1 × 2.7 cm heterogeneously enhancing mass located along the posterior aspect of the left frontal convexity. The lesion was accessed using a transsulcal approach and was surgically debulked along the motor cortex with motor strip mapping, followed by adjuvant whole-brain radiation therapy. Pathological examination confirmed metastatic carcinoma with features of TCC, a rare entity among metastatic brain tumors.

Brain metastases may present several years later in patients with TCC of the urinary bladder who have been treated with surgery and chemotherapy. Chemotherapeutic agents that penetrate the blood-brain barrier, such as gemcitabine, may delay development of cerebral metastasis from primary TCC of the urinary bladder 5).

A 57-year-old patient presenting with epileptic crises secondary to a brain metastasis from bladder carcinoma, who was investigated in our institution with (11)C-Methionine PET. The scan documented the disease recurrence in the left parietal lobe associated with a diffused tracer uptake in the surrounding cerebral circumvolutions, derived from the comitial status. After surgical removal of the metastatic lesion, the patient experienced a complete recovery of symptoms and no further onset of secondary seizure 6).

A 71-year-old man who was admitted to the emergency department after an episode of loss of consciousness. On neurological examination a left hemiparesis was observed. The patient’s previous history entailed a total cystectomy and radical prostatectomy 7 months ago because of a transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) of the urinary bladder. Brain imaging work-up revealed a cystic lesion with perifocal edema in the right frontal lobe. The patient was operated and the histological diagnosis was consistent with a metastatic carcinoma, with morphological, histochemical and immunohistochemical features comparable to those of the primary tumor. Postoperative the patient was in excellent neurological state and received complementary chemotherapy and total brain irradiation. Additional imaging and laboratory examinations excluded other metastatic lesion. The patient died 18 months later due to systemic disease. Although intracranial metastases from TCC of urinary bladder have a low incidence, in follow-up examinations any alterations in neurological status in these patients should be thoroughly evaluated 7).


Taylor JM, McTyre ER, Tatter SB, Laxton AW, Munley MT, Chan MD, Cramer CK. Gamma Knife Stereotactic Radiosurgery for the Treatment of Brain Metastases from Primary Tumors of the Urinary Bladder. Stereotact Funct Neurosurg. 2018 Apr 26:1-5. doi: 10.1159/000488151. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 29698968.

Mahmoud-Ahmed AS, Suh JH, Kupelian PA, Klein EA, Peereboom DM, Dreicer R, Barnett GH. Brain metastases from bladder carcinoma: presentation, treatment and survival. J Urol. 2002 Jun;167(6):2419-22. PubMed PMID: 11992049.

Rosenstein M, Wallner K, Scher H, Sternberg CN. Treatment of brain metastases from bladder cancer. J Urol. 1993 Mar;149(3):480-3. PubMed PMID: 8437250.

Angulo JC, López JI, Unda-Urzaiz M, Flores N. [Bladder carcinoma and brain metastases before systemic chemotherapy]. Actas Urol Esp. 1992 Feb;16(2):140-3. Spanish. PubMed PMID: 1590088.

Sarmiento JM, Wi MS, Piao Z, Stiner ES. Solitary cerebral metastasis from transitional cell carcinoma after a 14-year remission of urinary bladder cancer treated with gemcitabine: Case report and literature review. Surg Neurol Int. 2012;3:82. doi: 10.4103/2152-7806.99172. Epub 2012 Jul 28. PubMed PMID: 22937482; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3424676.

Lopci E, Bello L, Chiti A. (11)C-Methionine uptake in secondary brain epilepsy. Rev Esp Med Nucl Imagen Mol. 2014 Jul-Aug;33(4):234-6. doi: 10.1016/j.remn.2013.12.008. Epub 2014 Mar 12. PubMed PMID: 24630372.

Zigouris A, Pahatouridis D, Mihos E, Alexiou GA, Nesseris J, Zikou AK, Argyropoulou MI, Goussia A, Voulgaris S. Solitary cystic cerebral metastasis from transitional cell carcinoma of the bladder. Acta Neurol Belg. 2009 Dec;109(4):322-5. PubMed PMID: 20120215.

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