Groundbreaking research will test DNA in the TUMORS of patients with advanced bladder cancer, allowing doctors to prescribe personalized drug treatments

  • A DNA test will determine the genetic characteristics of cancerous tumors on the bladder
  • Research shows that personalized treatments can then be offered to patients

A groundbreaking study in Britain will allow patients with advanced bladder cancer to receive personalized drug treatments depending on the DNA in their tumors.

Currently, the fatal disease is treated with chemotherapy, surgery and sometimes radiotherapy. However, research shows that some patients might do better with new medications known as immunotherapy, which are tailored to boost an individual’s immune system.

Other patients do not respond to chemotherapy or immunotherapy and their only hope is immediate surgery to eradicate the tumors.

But scientists now believe they can predict which treatment is most suitable for patients, depending on the genetic characteristics of the cancer itself.

In a unique study, approximately 160 patients will receive treatment that is tailored to the DNA of their cancer. Researchers hope the study will fundamentally change the way cancer is treated by the NHS and ultimately save thousands of lives.

Currently, bladder cancer is treated with chemotherapy, surgery and sometimes radiotherapy

‘Most patients with advanced bladder cancer get the same treatment, even though it works better for some and much worse for others,’ says Professor James Catto, urological surgeon and lead researcher on the study at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. ‘Bladder cancer survival rates have been unchanged for almost three decades. We hope that this process can change that.’

Around 5,000 people die each year in Britain from bladder cancer, which affects 10,000 people every year. If caught early, it can usually be cured using surgery or drug therapies.

In 2020, artist Tracey Emin revealed that she had been diagnosed with it. She underwent surgeries to remove her bladder and other pelvic organs and is currently cancer-free.

However, if the disease spreads to surrounding organs, it almost always becomes incurable.

In the new trial, taking place at 20 sites across the country and funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research, half of the 320 participants will receive the current standard treatment – three months of chemo followed by surgery – while the others half will receive the current standard treatment. receive a customized treatment plan based on the DNA of their cancer.

Participants must have bladder cancer that is at risk of spreading but has not yet left the organ.

Of the patients who receive the personalized treatments, those whose tumors show signs of resistance to chemotherapy will instead undergo immediate surgery. Those whose cancer has genetic characteristics that indicate the cancer responds to immunotherapy will receive these drugs instead of chemotherapy before undergoing surgery.

“Not all forms of bladder cancer are the same,” says Prof. Catto. ‘The treatment of the disease must reflect that.’