What’s new in bladder cancer research?
Research into bladder cancer is being done right now in many hospitals and medical centers around the world.
Genetic changes in bladder cancer
Scientists have learned a lot about how bladder cancer cells differ from normal cells. Some changes in the DNA of bladder cancers have been found. Now they are working to find out if tests that find the DNA changes are useful in predicting the course of the disease. This information may be useful in choosing treatments. Other studies are aimed at finding bladder cancers that come back after treatment.
Urine tests to look for bladder cancer
Several newer urine tests look for substances in the urine that might show that a person has bladder cancer. These tests are also used to look for cancer that has come back in people who have already been treated. Researchers are now looking to see if these tests might be helpful even earlier, to screen for bladder cancer in people without symptoms.
Reducing the risk of bladder cancer coming back
People who have had one bladder cancer are at risk for having a new cancer in the urinary tract (the bladder, lining of the kidneys, ureters, and urethra). Studies are being done to see if certain foods, vitamins (such as vitamin E), minerals (such as selenium), supplements (such as green tea extract and broccoli sprout extract), or drugs could reduce the risk of cancer coming back or getting a second cancer. Researchers are also looking for newer types of vaccines to help lower the risk of a second cancer.
Bladder cancer treatments
Some surgeons are using a newer approach to cystectomy in which they sit at a control panel in the operating room and move robotic arms to do the surgery. This approach, known as robotic-assisted surgery, lets the surgeon work through several small cuts (incisions) instead of one large one. This may help patients recover more quickly from surgery. This approach is being studied to see if it is as good as standard surgery.
Researchers are looking at a number of new medicines to see if putting them into the bladder after surgery can help lower the risk of the cancer coming back. The hope is to find some that are better and/or safer than the drugs now used.
Photodynamic therapy (PDT)
PDT is a newer treatment method that is now being studied to see if it is useful in treating early stages of bladder cancer. A chemical is put into the blood. It collects in cancer cells over a few days. Then a special type of laser light is focused on the bladder lining through a cystoscope. This light changes the chemical so that it can kill cancer cells. One drawback is that this method only works for cancers near the surface of the bladder. The advantage is that PDT does very little harm to normal cells.
The main side effect of PDT is that it makes people very sensitive to the sun for a few weeks. Even small amounts of sunlight can cause severe burns in a short time, so it is very important to be careful while getting this treatment.
Read more about this kind of treatment in our document Photodynamic Therapy.
Researchers are learning more about the parts of bladder cancer cells that control their growth and spread in order to develop new drugs called targeted therapies. These new drugs work differently from standard chemo drugs. They may work in some cases when chemo drugs do not, and they tend to have different (and often less severe) side effects. These drugs have been found to be useful in other cancers, such as lung cancer and colorectal cancer. Studies are being done to test some of these drugs against bladder cancer.
Some of these drugs target blood vessels that allow tumors to grow. These are known as anti-angiogenesis drugs. They are now being studied for use against bladder cancer, usually along with chemotherapy.
Gene therapy is another new method being tested for bladder cancer. One of these methods uses special viruses that have been changed in the lab. The changed virus is put into the bladder and infects the bladder cancer cells. When this happens, the virus puts a gene into the cancer cell that may help the immune system to attack it.
Last Medical Review: 06/23/2014
Last Revised: 01/21/2016