- Urothelial bladder cancer (UBC) is characterized by a high risk of recurrence.
- The standard test called cytology is different from a biopsy as it helps examine individual cells, rather than pieces of tissue containing many cell clusters.
- A new test identifies a protein, Telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) which indicates bladder cancer recurrence.
A simple test for an earlier and more accurate warning of returning bladder cancer than existing methods has been developed.
Researchers from the University Hospital of Lyon tested the urine of 348 bladder cancer patients for a faulty protein called Telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) and this was able to predict when the cancer was about to return in more than 80 percent of patients. The standard method, called cytology, detected the return in only 34 percent of patients.
‘Telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) in urine was a reliable and dynamic predictor of recurrence in non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer which is otherwise detected by urine cytology.’
Telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT)
TERT is a faulty protein that may be present in the urine after initial surgery for bladder cancer. It indicates the presence of residual carcinoma.
The new test detected bladder cancers that had not spread to the muscle wall, earlier than cytology, potentially helping doctors to start treatment sooner and before symptoms appear.
A further benefit is that the new test distinguished cancer from urinary tract infections. The test doesn't react to urinary tract infections, reducing the chances of misleading results.
Professor Alain Ruffion, a researcher based at the University Hospital of Lyon's Oncology Institute said: "The standard cytology test needs a doctor to look down a microscope to read the results, but the TERT test is read by a machine which is simpler, more accurate and available to use straightaway. While the TERT test costs slightly more than standard cytology, it is likely to become cheaper over time."
The discovery also suggests that further research is needed to understand more about the role TERT faults play in bladder cancer.
Anna Perman, senior science information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: "This promising study suggests a new and more accurate early warning system to detect whether bladder cancers are likely to return. Larger trials are now needed to see if this information could help more people survive by catching bladder cancer's return at its earliest stage."
Bladder cancer occurs when there is abnormal cell growth in the urinary bladder. About 90-95% of the cancers begin from the inner lining of the bladder (urothelium or transitional epithelium) and hence they are known as urothelial or transitional cell carcinoma.
Facts On Bladder Cancer
- Bladder cancer mostly occurs in people older than 55.
- Bladder cancer accounts for about 5% of all new cancers in the US.
- It is the fourth most common cancer in men, but it is less common in women.
- According to the American Cancer Society, there were about 79,030 new bladder cancer cases in the United States and around 16,870 deaths due to the same in 2017.
- A person with bladder cancer has a five-year survival rate as high as 77% as per the National Cancer Institute of United States. The lowest five-year survival rate of 15% was seen in patients affected by stage 4 (advanced) bladder cancer.
- Hematuria or blood in the urine is often the first warning of bladder cancer. But in most cases, this is invisible to the naked eye and can be detected only through a laboratory urine analysis.