A simple test to predict how well bladder cancers will respond to radiotherapy could enable doctors to tailor the best treatment for their patients, according to a study published today.*

Scientists at the Cancer Research UK Clinical Centre in Leeds have shown that the levels of two particular proteins are associated with the effectiveness of radiotherapy. Patients who responded well to radiotherapy tended to have more of these proteins.

Bladder cancer can be treated with surgery, but some patients prefer to have the option of radiotherapy. However, radiotherapy only works on some tumours.

A test that accurately predicts whether or not a tumour will respond to radiotherapy would mean doctors could offer different treatment options for their patients.

The proteins, called APE1 and XRCC1, are both involved in repairing damaged DNA. Because radiotherapy works by causing DNA damage in cancer cells, the researchers, funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research and Cancer Research UK, set out to characterise the link between the amount of these proteins and the cancer cells’ response to radiotherapy.

Dr Anne Kiltie, the study’s lead researcher, says: “We expected that higher levels of these repair proteins would make the tumour cells more resistant to radiation, but what we saw was that this actually made tumour cells more susceptible. We need to confirm these findings in a larger group of patients but this is a promising avenue for future research.”

Elaine King, Chief Executive, Yorkshire Cancer Research says: “This development offers significant potential for the future. This test could allow consultants to accurately identify which cancer treatment would be most suitable for each individual patient.”

Dr Lesley Walker, Director of Cancer Information at Cancer Research UK, says: “Characterising tumours can help doctors advise patients on their treatment options. This research could form the basis of a simple test to identify patients suitable for radiotherapy, so potentially they could avoid major surgery.”


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* Sak, S. et al. Clinical Cancer Research September 1, 2005 Volume 11, No.17.

  • There are over 10,000 new cases of bladder cancer each year, making it the fifth most common cancer in the UK.
  • The main preventable risk factor is tobacco smoking.
  • Bladder cancer is more common in men than women, with a male : female ratio of 5 : 2.
  • Visit CancerHelp UK (www.cancerhelp.org.uk) for clear, easy to understand information about bladder cancer.

Cancer Research UK

  • Cancer Research UK’s vision is to conquer cancer through world-class research, aiming to control the disease within two generations.
  • The charity works alone and in partnership with others to carry out research into the biology and causes of cancer, develop effective treatments, improve the quality of life for cancer patients, reduce the number of people getting cancer and provide authoritative information on cancer. Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading charity dedicated to research on the causes, treatment and prevention of cancer.
  • For further information about Cancer Research UK’s work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 020 7009 8820 or visit www.cancerresearchuk.org

Yorkshire Cancer Research

Yorkshire Cancer Research was founded in 1925 to fund research in the cause and cure of cancer, which today accounts for one in four deaths in this country.

  • The charity is the UK’s largest regional medical research charity, which funds research at its five centres of research excellence.
  • Yorkshire Cancer Research scientists and clinicians are among the world leaders in the fight against cancer. The concentration of specialists and their expertise in Yorkshire means that cancer sufferers all over the world have access to some of the best treatments and therapies.
  • For further information on how to support Yorkshire Cancer Research and its research work, please call 01423 501 269 or visit the Yorkshire Cancer Research website.