Genes reveal secrets to bladder cancer

A set of genes could hold the secret to the most common form of bladder cancer and lead to better targeted treatment, researchers in Leeds, UK, have reported.

In one of the first studies to look at the genetics of early-stage bladder cancer, the research team at University of Leeds, Yorkshire, examined non-invasive bladder cancer tumours that form in the lining of the bladder and do not spread to the bladder muscle.

They found that there are two genetic variants of the tumours and believe that understanding the genetic mutations involved in each of the subtypes could lead to more targeted therapies.

Lead investigator Professor Margaret Knowles, from the Leeds Institute of Cancer and Pathology, said: "We have already identified a vulnerability in the cancer cells of one of the genetic subtypes. Our aim is to see if we can develop an experimental compound that could exploit this vulnerability, with the eventual aim of developing a drug that would kill the cancer cells.

"Although these tumours are not usually life-threatening, they frequently recur and patients require long-term invasive monitoring and repeated surgery.

"Our improved ability to identify these specific molecular features of individual tumours should allow a more personalised approach to therapy and disease management in future."

The study, published in Cancer Cell, discovered that many of the genetic mutations, which accumulate largely through exposure to environmental factors, in the tumours disrupt tumour suppressor genes.

It also found that women were more likely to have a defect on a specific tumour suppressor gene. Out of the 27 tumour samples from women, 20 had the defect, compared to 42% (23 out of 55) in samples from men.

Prof Knowles said further research is required to establish why women are more likely to have this genetic fault.

Cancer Cell 13 November 2017

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