Study Examines Predictive Biomarker for Bladder Cancer Survival

Get Permission

Long-term survival data from the first prospective, randomized biomarker validation trial in patients with muscle-invasive bladder cancer being treated with cisplatin-based chemotherapy before surgery are being reported at the 2022 ASCO Genitourinary Cancers Symposium by Thomas W. Flaig, MD, and colleagues (Abstract 536).

The results are from the S1314 clinical trial conducted by the SWOG Cancer Research Network. Primary results of the S1314 study were published in Clinical Cancer Research in 2021 and reported an association between a gene-expression biomarker called the COXEN GC score and a tumor’s pathologic response to chemotherapy. The new findings being presented at the ASCO Genitourinary Cancers Symposium are results of a prespecified secondary analysis of S1314 data that looked for associations between COXEN score and overall and progression-free survival.

The work was led by Dr. Flaig, a SWOG investigator at the University of Colorado Cancer Center and Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Center.

Thomas W. Flaig, MD

Thomas W. Flaig, MD

“The work on S1314 was a tremendous collaborative effort across many institutions," Dr. Flaig said. "It provides important information on patients being treated with preoperative chemotherapy for bladder cancer.”

S1314 Background

The S1314 trial enrolled 237 patients with muscle-invasive urothelial bladder cancer that had not metastasized, all of whom were slated to have surgery for their cancer 

After they enrolled in the study, patients were randomly assigned to receive neoadjuvant chemotherapy in one of two treatment arms. Patients in the first arm were treated with gemcitabine and cisplatin; those in the second arm were treated with a dose-dense cocktail of four drugs: methotrexate, vinblastine, doxorubicin, and cisplatin (MVAC). All patients had surgery after completing chemotherapy. Doctors examined the tumors removed from patients to determine whether they had shrunk in response to the chemotherapy.


The COXEN score (short for co-expression extrapolation score) is generated by a test that measures the expression of a specific set of genes in a patient’s tumor cells. The COXEN test is tailored to each treatment; roughly speaking, it attempts to predict how sensitive a tumor is to a specific drug or to a combination of drugs.

The S1314 trial used a separate treatment-specific COXEN test for each of the two treatment combinations. These two tests were called COXEN GC and COXEN MVAC. Before the trial started, researchers identified a specific cutoff score for each test: scores above that cutoff were considered favorable; scores below it were unfavorable.

The trial was designed to determine whether a better COXEN score was associated with a more favorable response to chemotherapy. The goal was to determine whether the COXEN score could serve as a potential biomarker that could then be validated later in a prospective clinical trial. The primary trial results had shown that the COXEN GC score could predict pathologic response to chemotherapy among a pooled analysis of patients from both the gemcitabine/cisplatin and MVAC treatment arms.

Secondary Analysis

In the secondary analysis, the researchers found no significant association between the COXEN GC score and overall or progression-free survival in the gemcitabine and cisplatin treatment group nor in the MVAC treatment group. However, when they looked at the COXEN GC score values for both treatment groups combined, they found that the score was a significant predictor of overall survival.

Dr. Flaig emphasized that much more remained to be learned from S1314. “There is very little prospective data in this setting,” he said, “and beyond the COXEN analysis reported here, samples and patient outcomes from S1314 are being used to facilitate the evaluation of several additional biomarkers.”

Disclosure: Study S1314 was sponsored by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), led by SWOG, and conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded National Clinical Trials Network. The study was funded by the NIH/NCI. For full disclosures of the study authors, visit

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.