A simple urine test could revolutionise the way doctors diagnose bladder cancer according to a new study by Cancer Research UK.
Scientists believe the test could be twice as accurate in detecting tumours than the standard urine analysis currently used to diagnose the disease.
The report found that high levels of a protein called Mcm5 has unprecedented success in predicting the presence of cancer cells.
Discoveries surrounding this protein are linked to the Nobel prize winning work of Sir Paul Nurse, Interim Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK.
The new study, published today in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute1, is one of the most significant clinical trials to be based around this protein.
Dr Kai Stoeber, lead researcher, says: “One of the most important results of this work is that the protein test can establish early diagnosis of bladder cancer.”
At the moment the gold standard diagnostic test for bladder cancer is cystoscopy which is both invasive and expensive.
Analysis of urine for cancer cells, known as cytology, is also used but is not a reliable test for the detection of cancer in the majority of bladder cancer cases.
The trial involved 350 patients who showed symptoms of urinary tract disease such as blood in urine or pain. They were given a conventional urine analysis and were also tested for the level of the protein Mcm5.
The protein test identified 92 per cent of tumours whereas routine cytology picked up only 48 per cent of them – making the new test almost twice as effective.
Prof. Gareth Williams, who headed the study, says: “The results mean that Cancer Research UK will now carry out multi-centre trials which will hopefully ensure that this new diagnostic test will become the standard and help detect bladder cancer at early stages thereby saving more lives.”
Although the main focus of the study was on bladder cancer it became apparent that the test could also have implications for the early diagnosis of prostate cancer. But these findings are preliminary as they involved only 12 patients.
“To find an effective way of diagnosing early prostate cancer would be very exciting because the effectiveness of the PSA test in prostate cancer screening remains controversial,” says Prof Williams.
Sir Paul Nurse, Interim Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK, says: “The results of this trial build on earlier work by Cancer Research UK scientists. It is an exciting example of where scientific excellence and discovery are being translated into the clinic for the benefit of patients. The results of the new trials will be eagerly awaited.”
- Journal of the National Cancer Institute94 (14)
Bladder cancer is the fourth commonest cancer in men and the eighth commonest cancer in women. Latest statistics show there are nearly 13,000 new cases a year mostly occurring in the over 65’s.
In the last 30 years improved treatment has improved five year survival rates by 15 per cent.
Prostate cancer is the second commonest cancer in men with more than 21,000 cases occurring each year mostly in the over 65’s. Better treatment has helped increase the survival rate from 33 per cent to 49 per cent in England and Wales in the last 30 years.