The blood test that is bringing hope to patients with the deadliest bladder cancers

02 April 2019, Tim Burton - 

Bladder cancer can be very treatable. Higher risk and stage (muscle-invasive) bladder cancers can be treated by removing the original bladder and replacing it with a new one made out of a patient’s bowel.

However, this cancer becomes much harder to treat when it has spread or metastasised. In order to improve survival chances, the spreading of bladder cancer through the body needs to be detected as fast as possible. That’s what The Urology Foundation’s researcher, Mr Pramit Khetrapal, has been working on.

PramitThe most dangerous cancers are those that spread

For a lot of patients, removing an organ that has cancer also means removing the cancer. This is true for a lot of prostate cancer patients and it’s true for a lot of bladder cancer patients, too.

However, what happens when the cancer has spread beyond the offending organ (metastasised) before it has been removed?

Cancer spread beyond the primary organ is detected using CT Scans, but a cancer has to be a certain size before it is picked up on these cans. Once the metastasised cancer is large enough to be detected, affected patients have an expected lifespan of approximately 8 months.

Treating metastasised cancer before it is too large

Our researcher, Pramit, has been working on a new blood test that could detect the metastasised cancer much earlier. Pramit’s test is a blood test that uses cell-free DNA biomarkers to identify genetic mutations in patients that have had their bladder removed. This DNA is released into the blood from dying cells in the body, which include both normal and cancer cells. Since this DNA is cleared from the body within a day, any cancer-related DNA being detected could be a good marker of current disease status.

After being trialled in 122 patients, it has been shown to be very good at showing which bladder cancer patients still have cancer in their body after their bladders have been removed.

Here’s what Pramit told us,

This blood test has been able to detect bladder cancer associated DNA mutations before CT Scans did in our initial cohort. We don’t know what this might mean for a patient’s life expectancy yet, but this early detection would mean that treatment could be initiated earlier. While further research is needed to test whether earlier treatment could benefit survival outcomes, this approach has the potential to have a dramatic impact on the life expectancy of patients with metastasised bladder cancer.

If you would like to help us fund more research that could save lives, you can donate today.


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