Intravesical gemcitabine has recently been introduced for the treatment of superficial bladder cancer and has a favourable efficacy and toxicity profile in comparison to mitomycin c (MMC), the most commonly used chemotherapeutic agent. The aim of this study was to assess the cytotoxic potency of gemcitabine in comparison to MMC in urothelial cell lines derived from non-malignant (UROtsa) and malignant (RT4 and T24) tissues to assess selectivity. Cells were treated with gemcitabine or mitomycin C at concentrations up to the clinical doses for 1 or 2 h respectively (clinical duration). Treatment combined with hyperthermia was also examined. Cell viability, ROS formation, urothelial function (ATP, acetylcholine and PGE2 release) and secretion of inflammatory cytokines were assessed. Gemcitabine displayed a high cytotoxic selectivity for the two malignant cell lines (RT4, T24) compared to the non-malignant urothelial cells (UROtsa, proliferative and non-proliferative). In contrast, the cytotoxic effects of MMC were non-selective with equivalent potency in each of the cell lines. The cytotoxic effect of gemcitabine in the malignant cell lines was associated with an elevation in free radical formation and was significantly decreased in the presence of an equilibrative nucleoside transporter inhibitor. Transient changes in urothelial ATP and PGE2 release were observed, with significant increase in release of interleukin-6, interleukin-8 and interleukin-1β from urothelial cells treated with gemcitabine. The selectivity of gemcitabine for malignant urothelial cells may account for the less frequent adverse urological effects with comparison to other commonly used chemotherapeutic agents.