Tumor Subtyping: Making Sense of Heterogeneity with a Goal Toward Treatment

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


BACKGROUND: Bladder cancers have high total mutation burdens resulting in genomic diversity and intra-and inter-tumor heterogeneity that may impact the diversity of gene expression, biologic aggressiveness, and potentially response to therapy. To compare bladder cancers among patients, an organizational structure is necessary that describes the tumor at the histologic and molecular level. These 'molecular subtypes', or 'expression subtypes' of bladder cancer were originally described in 2010 and continue to evolve secondary to next generation sequencing (NGS) and an increasing public repository of well-annotated cohorts. OBJECTIVE: To review the history and methodology of expression-based subtyping of non-muscle invasive (NMIBC) and muscle invasive bladder cancer (MIBC). METHODS: A literature review was performed of primary papers from PubMed that described subtyping methods and their descriptive feature including search terms of 'subtype', and 'bladder cancer'. RESULTS: 21 papers were identified for review. Tumor subtyping developed from N = 2 to N = 6 subtyping schemes with most subtypes comprised of at least luminal and basal tumors. Most NMIBCs are luminal cancers and luminal MIBCs may be associated with less aggressive features, while one study of basal tumors identified a better clinical outcome with systemic chemotherapy. Tumors with a P53-like may have intrinsic resistance to chemotherapy. The heterogeneity of tumors, which is likely derived from stromal components and immune cell infiltration, affect subtype calls. CONCLUSION: Subtyping, while still evolving, is ready for testing in clinical trials. Improved patient selection with tumor subtyping may help with tumor classification and potentially match patient or tumor to therapy.


  • Joshua J. Meeks
  • Gottfrid Sjödahl
  • Seth P. Lerner
  • Arighno Das
  • David J. McConkey
  • Peter C. Black
External organisations
  • Baylor College of Medicine
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • University of British Columbia
  • Northwestern University
  • Jesse Brown VA Medical Center
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Cancer and Oncology


  • Bladder cancer, expression-based subtyping, immunology, stroma, systemic therapy
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalBladder Cancer
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Publication categoryResearch