Swedish team discovers protein common to aggressive bladder cancer

Swedish researchers have identified a particular protein in the tumors of patients with fast-moving bladder cancer. They believe that screening for the biomarker, perhaps with a simple urine test, could allow for more targeted treatment at an early enough stage to give patients a fighting chance, or at least identify realistic options.

Lund University, Uppsala University and KTH scientists discovered the connection through their study of 500 male and female adult patients with bladder cancer tumors. The research team found that patients with tumors containing the protein PODXL (podocalyxin-like) had a much lower chance of survival. These patients were at a much greater risk of dying in just two years even if the cancer was caught early. Details of their work are published in the British Journal of Cancer.

If PODXL sounds familiar, it should. The team's previous research work linked the protein to a higher risk of death in colon cancer patients. It is a big development to make the same connection in bladder cancer, and scientists believe the findings may apply to other cancers still.

The biomarker discovery points to an improved personalized medicine approach. By screening for PODXL, doctors can identify patients with aggressive bladder cancer, begin more intense treatment sooner and perhaps even assess how likely such a cancer would be to return. But treatment options for the PODXL form of the cancer may ultimately be limited. At the same time, bladder cancer patients without PODXL--who likely have a slower-moving form of the cancer--can be treated accordingly. More research is necessary, however, to bear this approach out.

"With better knowledge of this protein, we can better determine a patient's prognosis and see who needs more aggressive treatment immediately and who can be given a milder treatment without a risk to life," Lund University doctoral student and study co-author Karolina Boman said in a statement.

- read the release
- here's the journal abstract

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