Improving choice and personalisation of treatment in bladder and kidney cancer

The Urology Foundation funded research led by Dr Samantha Conroy into the treatment responses for bladder and kidney cancer. The research outcomes have advanced our understanding of these cancers. In future, data such as this may help to individualise patient treatment to the drugs which work best on their cancer, rather than the current ‘one-size-fits all’ strategies.

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The challenge

Bladder cancer and kidney cancer are common urology cancers. The more invasive forms of these cancers can be lethal. To achieve cure, or to control symptoms without cure, patients often need surgery, chemotherapy/immunotherapy or radiotherapy. Despite advances in our understanding and treatment of cancers, survival outcomes for patients with bladder cancer and kidney cancer have not dramatically improved. A better understanding of these diseases and their treatments, as well as ways to individualise patient care, are required to improve outcomes.

The research

Dr Samantha Conroy and her team at the University of Sheffield aimed to find solutions to this problem. The research aimed to potentially reduce the number of patients undergoing lengthy and toxic treatments that do not control the spread of their cancer.

The project looked at screening tumour samples outside of the body (ex-vivo). Patients who were having their bladder cancer and kidney cancer removed surgically were asked to donate a small sample of their tumour for drug testing. This is the first time this new and exciting approach has been explored in bladder and kidney cancer.

The study aimed to:

  • Identify whether testing drug responses on tumour samples grown out of body (ex-vivo) was feasible in bladder and kidney cancers
  • Explore whether this screening of patient tumour samples could show how different patients would respond to treatments and look at potential new and effective treatments that could be used in the future
  • Discover whether genetic testing of these tumour samples (as well as the drug screening mentioned above) might allow us to predict patients’ individual responses to treatments and make sure they receive the right treatment for them (as well as understanding why new treatments worked and don’t work on certain patients)

Our role

The Urology Foundation provided funding for this project via our Innovation and  Research Fund.

Impact of the study

The study showed that drug testing on tumours outside of the body (ex-vivo) can be done in both bladder and kidney cancers. It also found that doing so provides information on how individual patients would respond to treatment. In future, data such as this may help to individualise patient treatment to the drugs which work best on their cancer, rather than the current ‘one-size-fits all’ strategies.

Next steps

Further research is underway to build on the findings from this study.


“The support I have received from TUF has allowed me to continue this project throughout my PhD. I have gained an immeasurable amount of knowledge in the field of bladder cancer and kidney cancer across the last 12 months, particularly with respect to treatment strategies and the genetics that underpin these diseases. My research project has allowed me to develop collaborations across the urology community.”