GENETIC SIGNATURES of non-invasive bladder cancer have recently been reported by researchers at the University of Leeds, Leeds, UK, highlighting the potential for better-targeted treatment. The study was pioneering in its assessment of early-stage bladder cancer genetics, cells of which had not yet had the chance to metastasise to the bladder muscle.
Non-invasive bladder cancer is the most common form of bladder cancer, with >5,000 new cases diagnosed per year in the UK alone. Currently, all patients are treated similarly; however, the recent finding that there are two genetic variants of non-invasive bladder cancer means that a more personalised and targeted therapy, based on the genetic mutation subtype, is possible.
Lead investigator, Prof Margaret Knowles, Leeds Institute of Cancer and Pathology, School of Medicine, University of Leeds commented: “We have already identified a vulnerability in the cancer cells of one of the genetic subtypes.” Future work for the team will focus on developing an experimental compound that will exploit this vulnerability, with the end goal of creating a drug that would eliminate the cancer cells.
Although the tumours are not usually life-threatening, they usually recur in patients, meaning continual invasive monitoring and surgery is required. An improved ability to identify specific molecular features of individual tumours will allow personalised treatment and management in the future. “By tailoring therapies to a patient’s personal needs, we can avoid prescribing unnecessary treatment that can severely affect their quality of life” says Dr Kathryn Scott, Yorkshire Cancer Research, Leeds.
The study found that the mutations were not of hereditary origin, but were due to the accumulation of environmental factors, including cigarette smoking. It was also discovered that the genetic defect is more frequently seen in women, with 75% of tumour samples from women having the specific genetic fault, compared to 42% of men.
More research is needed to understand why women are more likely to carry the genetic fault; are women more exposed to the cancer-causing agent, or is there a biological difference between male and female bladders, which increases female susceptibility? “This is a fantastic discovery that could change the way we treat bladder cancer” concludes Dr Scott.