"I was delighted to take part in a clinical trial as it has the potential to really help others in the future.”
A study to find the best treatment for early bladder cancer (BRAVO)
This study looked at the possibility of doing a larger trial to compare different ways of treating high risk bladder cancer. High risk bladder cancer is more likely to:
- come back after treatment or
- spread further
The trial was for people whose cancer hadn’t grown into the muscle wall of the bladder. This is called non muscle invasive bladder cancer.
It was open for people to join between 2016 and 2018. The team published the results in 2020.
More about this trial
When this trial was done, the usual treatments for high risk non muscle invasive bladder cancer were:
- surgery to remove the bladder (a radical cystectomy)
- treatment into the bladder with the BCG vaccine
Surgery to remove the bladder is a big operation but it is a safe treatment and works well. Doctors weren’t sure if surgery or BCG worked best in the long term.
BCG is a vaccine. It seems to help cells of the
At the time of this trial, some research suggested surgery might be over treatment for some people. So researchers wanted to find out more about the best way to treat this type of cancer. First, they needed to find out if it was possible to do this type of study. To find this out they ran a feasibility study.
The main aim of this study was to see if people were willing to take part.
Summary of results
The team found that it wouldn’t be possible to run a larger trial comparing the treatments. This was because it was difficult to find enough people to take part in this study.
The team screened 407 people who they thought might be suitable to take part. Of those, 215 people fitted the
51 people were
Of those, 43 people had their trial treatment:
- 20 had surgery to remove the bladder
- 23 had BCG into the bladder
Those who had BCG had it for up to 1 year as long as it was working and the side effects weren’t too bad.
The team followed the people who took part for up to a year. Those who had BCG had regular tests to look inside the bladder (
Why people didn’t join the study
The team looked at why some people, who had been asked to take part didn’t want to. They gave the following reasons:
- 77 people preferred to have BCG
- 39 people preferred to have surgery to remove the bladder
- 27 people didn’t want to be put into a randomised group
- 8 people were worried about joining a trial
- 3 people didn’t say why
Results for the BCG group
23 people had BCG into the bladder.
After the first 6 weeks of treatment everyone had a cystoscopy to look inside the bladder. The team:
- found 4 people had cancer in the lining of the bladder (non muscle invasive bladder cancer)
- found 18 people had no sign of cancer
- didn’t have the results for 1 person
At 4 months they had the results for 16 people. They found:
- 3 people had cancer in the lining of the bladder (non muscle invasive cancer)
- 13 people had no sign of cancer
At 4 months follow up, 4 people went on to have surgery to remove the bladder.
Everyone had regular CT scans during the trial. At the end of the trial they found that 2 people had bladder cancer that had spread elsewhere in the body.
Results for people who had surgery
20 people had surgery to remove the bladder. At 12 month follow up, information was available for 9 people and of these 9, everyone was free of cancer.
Quality of life
The research team asked people taking part to fill out a quality of life questionnaire before, during and after treatment.
The results showed that there wasn’t much of a change in quality of life for people in either group at 12 months.
For those who had surgery, quality of life went down for a few months afterwards. It then began to improve. At 6 to 12 months it was back to about the same level as before surgery.
There was little change in quality of life in those who had BCG treatment into the bladder.
The team looked at the side effects of treatment. They say most of them were mild.
- 15 out of 23 people in the BCG group had at least one side effect
- 13 out of 20 people in the surgery group had at least one side effect
The most common side effects of BCG into the bladder included:
- muscle pain
- pain or burning when passing urine
- passing urine frequently
The most common side effects after surgery included:
- chest and wound infections
- a short delay before the bowels started to work properly
The research team concluded that it wouldn’t be possible to run a larger trial comparing these treatments.
This study wasn’t designed to work out which treatment worked best. The team say some people are best suited to have surgery and others to have BCG treatment.
The researchers suggest their findings are used to tell people about the risks of each treatment. The researchers hope these findings will help doctors decide the best treatment for each person based on their individual risk.
All trial results help doctors and researchers understand more about different cancers and the best way to treat them.
Where this information comes from
We have based this summary on information from the research team. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (
How to join a clinical trial
Professor James Catto
Clinical Trials Research Unit (CTRU)
Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
University of Sheffield
University of Leeds
Yorkshire Cancer Research - YCR