Purpose of review: High-risk, nonmuscle invasive bladder cancer (HR-NMIBC) represents a costly and difficult-to-treat disease, the molecular pathogenesis of which has a limited understanding. Most preclinical models for the study of bladder cancer are more appropriate for the study of advanced disease. However, recent key advances in preclinical animal models places us at an opportune position to better understand HR-NMIBC.
Recent findings: Discoveries in the basic sciences allow us to better understand tumor biology when building models of bladder cancer. Of note, a key study on urothelial progenitor cells recently highlighted an important role for Sonic hedgehog-positive cells and retinoid signaling that is essential for urothelial development and regeneration. In the translational realm, transgenic mouse models continue to be used, with a recent interest in the role of Wnt/beta-catenin in urothelial carcinomas. Tissue recombination models are also being increasingly utilized to better recreate the tissue microenvironment and better understand stromal–epithelial interactions and the impact of genetic alterations on tissue differentiation. Lastly, the avatar mouse systems, which involve direct xenotransplantation of human tumor specimens into immunocompromised mice, represent an additional approach to study cancer characteristics in a preserved tissue context.
Summary: With molecular alterations remaining an unclear area of our understanding of HR-NMIBC, preclinical models of bladder cancer serve as essential tools to discover specific genetic compromises in disease pathogenesis and the therapeutics to treat them.